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Diesel car sales slump as petrol wins out

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There was further evidence of consumer weakness as the UK’s new car market dipped in February, according to figures by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

There were 80,805 new cars registered, a 2.8% drop compared with February 2017. However, this was largely driven by a slump in demand for diesel cars. Registrations of new diesel cars declined 23.5%, compared to a rise of 14.4% and 7.2% respectively for petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).

The UK new car market has declined 5.1% for the year-to-date, with registrations by business, private and fleet buyers all down. Business registrations have seen the largest drop, down 29.8%.

Best sellers for February were the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Golf.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the new car market remained at a good level despite the drop in demand for diesel: “Consumers should be reassured, however, that the latest cars are the cleanest in history and can help address air quality issues, which is why they are exempt from any restrictions.

“Looking ahead to the crucial number plate change month of March, we expect a further softening, given March 2017 was a record as registrations were pulled forward to avoid VED changes.”

Dan Hutson, head of motor at Comparethemarket said the figures showed the electric vehicle revolution has ‘not yet left the blocks’.

“While diesel cars are becoming less popular as drivers look to “go green”, these figures show that consumers have not rushed towards alternatively fuelled cars as some expected. Instead, it seems petrol cars are acting as a stop-gap before any significant transition towards electric vehicles.

“Our recent research showed that 67% of UK drivers did not want an electric or hybrid as their next car which is reflected in the significant increase in petrol car registrations. There is clearly more to do to get drivers comfortable with electric vehicles, particularly on battery life and charging infrastructure, before we can expect any meaningful electric vehicle adoption.”

Related: See’s Is it worth buying a diesel car? for more information.

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