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Falling diesel demand and Brexit blamed for decline in new car sales

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Car sales in the UK fell by close to 7% in 2018 as consumer confidence declined ahead of Brexit and diesel sales plummeted, industry figures reveal.

Total sales fell for a second year with 2.37 million vehicles sold last year, 173,000 fewer than in 2017, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Demand for diesel cars fell by 30% in 2018, with December marking the 21st consecutive month of decline for the fuel type.

The SMMT said negative anti-diesel rhetoric and fiscal measures had taken a toll on sales.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “A second year of substantial decline is a major concern, as falling consumer confidence, confusing fiscal and policy messages and shortages due to regulatory changes have combined to create a highly turbulent market.

“The industry is facing ever-tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers.”

In the alternatively fuelled vehicles sector, petrol electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up by 21%. Plug-in hybrids also recorded a strong uplift over the year with sales up 25%, though the figures suggest growth is slowing following the removal of the government’s plug-in car grant for these vehicles in October.

Sales of pure electric vehicles grew by 14%, but with just 15,474 registered, they still make up only 0.7% of the car market.

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