The number of ‘alternatively fuelled vehicle’ new registrations rose by 9.8% during the first quarter of 2018, contrasting starkly with a 12.4% drop in the overall new car market.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures show that 36,693 new alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) – including electric vehicles – were registered between January and March 2018, compared to 33,405 in the same period in 2017.
In total, 718,489 new cars were registered in the first quarter of 2018, compared to 820,016 in Q1 2017. The biggest fall was in new diesel registrations which were down 33.3% to 240,614.
The market share of AFVs rose to 5.1% in Q1 – compared to 4.1% in the same period in 2017.
In March 2018 alone, new car registrations fell by 15.7% to 474,069 – largely down to a 37.2% decline in diesel registrations (from 244,593 to 153,594).
The SMMT says the year-on-year decline is not unexpected given the ‘huge surge’ in new car registrations in March 2017, brought about by the increase to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates in April 2017.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “March’s decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month last year.
“Consumer and business confidence, however, has taken a knock in recent months and a thriving new car market is essential to the overall health of our economy.
“This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles.
“All technologies, regardless of fuel type, have a role to play in helping improve air quality whilst meeting our climate change targets, so government must do more to encourage consumers to buy new vehicles rather than hang onto their older, more polluting vehicles.”
The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) says that last year’s changes to VED have ‘led to a whole year of declining new car registrations’. The lobbying group is calling on Chancellor Philip Hammond to ‘immediately address the issue before further harm is done’, adding that the October budget will be ‘too late’.
Nigel Humphries, ABD spokesman, said: “Due to the confusion created by the shambolic new tax regime, rather than trading in their existing cars, usually economical diesels with cheap or free VED, drivers are choosing to hang on to their old car.
“This is having a disastrous effect on new car sales. Why would you buy a new car when A: the road tax will likely be higher, B: if buying diesel, there is no guarantee that local authorities will not in future introduce all manner of charges for parking or even entering towns, and C: if buying a petrol then economy will be poorer than your existing diesel?”