The UK new-car market declined in 2019, with annual registrations falling for the third consecutive year.
According to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 2,311,140 units were registered last year, representing a 2.4% decline as the market ‘reacted to weak business and consumer confidence, general political and economic instability and confusion over clean-air zones’.
The annual decline was driven primarily by falling private demand, with registrations from consumers down 3.2%, while the ‘small-volume business market’ also fell, down 34.4%.
Meanwhile, fleet registrations remained broadly stable, up 0.8%.
Demand fell in nearly all vehicle segments, with only the dual-purpose and specialist sports categories experiencing growth, up 12.0% and 19.2% respectively.
Despite registrations of ‘super-minis’ and ‘lower-medium’ cars falling (by 6.0% and 4.0% respectively), these smaller vehicles remain the most popular, taking a combined 57.1% share of the market.
There was modest growth in demand for petrol cars, up 2.2%, but this was not enough to offset the 21.8% fall in diesel registrations.
Indeed, December marked the 33rd month of diesel decline.
The SMMT says this is a result of continued anti-diesel rhetoric and confusion over clean-air zones, causing drivers to keep their older more-polluting vehicles on the road for longer.
Bucking the overall trend, combined alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations surged in 2019 to take a record 7.4% market share.
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) continued to dominate this sector, with registrations increasing by 17.1% to 97,850 units.
Battery-electric vehicle (BEV) registrations experienced the biggest percentage growth, rising by 144.0% to 37,850 units and overtaking plug-in hybrids for the first time.
The SMMT says that while the huge increase in BEV demand is welcome, their 1.6% market share is still tiny, underlining the progress needed to reach the 50-70% share that the Government envisages in the next 10 years.
“This ambition has not been helped by the significant decline of zero-emission-capable plug-in hybrids, down 17.8% and further evidence of the consequences of removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready.”
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive (www.smmt.co.uk
), added: “Despite the overall decline in 2019, the UK car market remains the second-biggest in the EU, behind Germany.
"It is also one of the most diverse, with buyers able to choose from some 350 different models that are available in various fuel types and body styles to suit all driving needs.
"With nearly 90 new-generation models — 23 of them zero-emission cars and 11 plug-in hybrids — set to make their showroom debuts in 2020, and some compelling deals on offer, the industry is committed to new technology that will benefit consumers and the broader environment.”