Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that diesel sales are down 25% on last January. However, electric and other alternative fuel vehicle sales continue to grow steadily. Overall figures were down 6.3% on last January.
Some blame has been directed at “confusion” over government policy. The government had backed large investments in diesel technology to improve fuel efficiency. However, a new goal to ban the sale of new cars running just on petrol or diesel by 2040 has been announced. The November budget also included a one-off tax increase for those buying new diesel cars that don’t meet new emissions standards. It has been argued that some of these measures encourage owners of older diesels to hang onto their cars rather than upgrading to a newer and more efficient model.
Some UK cities are also putting measures in place to combat pollution from vehicles. The congestion charge has been increased in London for less efficient vehicles. Other cities, such as Oxford, are also considering limiting access to city centres.
The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The ongoing and substantial decline in new diesel car registrations is concerning, particularly since the evidence indicates consumers and businesses are not switching into alternative technologies, but keeping their older cars running.” He added: “Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, we need government policy to encourage take-up of the latest advanced low-emission diesels as, for many drivers, they remain the right choice economically and environmentally.”
Others have taken a more optimistic view on the figures. Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said: “The sector performed exceptionally well in the first quarter of 2017, meaning the decline reflects an expected market correction. Franchised dealers continue to see a buoyant market on the used car side.”
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