New car registrations 2019: Market down 2.5% in first three quarters of year

New car registrations grew 1.3 per cent in September 2019 – not enough to cancel out the 20.5 per cent decline in the same month last year

New car registrations have declined 2.5 per cent in the first three quarters of the year, falling from 1,910,820 in 2018 to 1,862,271 in 2019.

Although there was a modest year-on-year increase of 1.3 per cent in September 2019 to 338,834 registrations, this has to be viewed in context of the 20.5 per cent drop seen in September 2018 when new WLTP emissions regulations and lack of testing capacity across Europe affected supply.

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The UK figures for September 2019, provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), look worse still in comparison to those in the rest of Europe where monthly registrations rallied to the double digits despite those markets facing the same regulatory upheaval as the UK. The SMMT says this is evidence of the UK market being subdued by the added pressure of political and economic uncertainty, resulting in a lack of consumer confidence.

Registrations of new diesel-engined cars fell again in September, dropping 20.3 per cent from 97,308 to 77,510. The fuel type is now down 20.6 per cent for the year-to-date, from 605,355 to 480,388.

Petrol registrations have remained fairly stable, rising 4.5 per cent in September and 2.6 per cent in the first three quarters of 2019 as a whole. It’s sales of fully electric cars that have surged, though – they jumped 236.4 per cent year-on-year last month and are up 122.1 per cent in the year-to-date. However, the figure for 2019 so far of 25,097 still only represents 1.3 per cent of the market.

Although registrations of new plug-in hybrids rose 22.6 per cent in September, overall they’re down 29.2 per cent so far this year – a decline that can partly be attributed to limited supply. Meanwhile, conventional hybrid registrations were up 15.3 per cent in the first three quarters of the year.

For 2019 so far, private and business registrations are down 2.4 per cent and 37.4 per cent respectively, while the fleet sector is up 0.1 per cent.

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Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, commented: “September’s modest growth belies the ongoing downward trend we’ve seen over the past 30 months. We expected to see a more significant increase in September, similar to those seen in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, given the negative effect WLTP had on all European markets last year.

“Instead, consumer confidence is being undermined by political and economic uncertainty. We need to restore stability to the market which means avoiding a no-deal Brexit and, moreover, agreeing a future relationship with the EU that avoids tariffs and barriers that could increase prices and reduce buyer choice.

Click here to find out which car brands were the winners and losers in 2018…

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