New car sales down 2.4% in 2019, while CO2 emissions rise for third year in a row

New car registration figures for 2019 reveal a seven-year low, while average CO2 emissions have increased again

New car registration figures for 2019 show a drop of 2.4 per cent, with a total 2.3 million units representing the worst year for the industry since 2013. The news arrives in spite of the month of December showing a small year-on-year increase.

Diesel cars were the biggest losers of the year, with a drop of 21.8 per cent, meaning diesels now account for around a quarter of all new car registrations.

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However, AFVs (Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles) including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles show big increases in registrations, now representing 7.4 per cent of the market. The bulk of those sales were hybrid models with an increase of 17.1 per cent.

The biggest number, though, was the increase in fully electric vehicles with a sales jump 144 per cent. These cars still only account for 1.6 per cent of the market, though, some way short of Government targets.

In spite of the jump in AFVs, the market shift away from low CO2 diesel cars showed a rise in average CO2 emissions – just as tight average CO2 targets for car makers come into effect. The average figure for all cars sold in the UK was 127.9g/km, which equates to a 2.7 per cent increase. This year sees the introduction of an EU average target of 95g/km that manufacturers must meet, or risk sizeable fines.

Superminis and small family cars still made up more than half of all registrations, but also showed drops in sales. Only two categories – dual purpose (SUVs) and specialist sports cars (which includes Tesla, which finally brought its Model 3 to the UK last year) – showed increases in 2019.

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Speaking about the figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The same factors apply as they have done for a while. Consumer confidence is weak, while there’s confusion over clean air zones and diesel cars.” 

However, 2020 could prove to be better, depending on the political situation. “We saw a greater degree of confidence post-election,” said Hawes,. “With more confidence there could be an improvement to the market.”

However, Hawes warned that uncertainty would remain until a trade deal had been finalised. For that reason, the 2020 outlook would be for another decline of around 1.6 per cent meaning a total of around 2.27 million units.

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