The sale of new cars fell for the fifth consecutive month in August, according to official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
August is generally a slower month for car sales as buyers put off purchases until the registration plate change at the start of September but registrations last month were still down 6.4 per cent compared with 2016 – to 76,433.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, insisted the figures weren’t all bad news. He said, “August is typically a quiet month for the new car market as consumers and businesses delay purchases until the arrival of the new number plate in September. With the new 67-plate now available and a range of new models in showrooms, we anticipate the continuation of what are historically high levels of demand.”
Simon Benson, director of motoring services at AA Cars, added: “On the surface, another monthly drop-off looks bad for the car industry, however this is still the third biggest August in the last decade.
“Typically August is always a slow month. We will have to wait until next month to see whether the malaise has truly set in – but in all likelihood, we’d expect to see a much more buoyant set of figures come September.”
Despite the SMMT’s confidence, the figures mark another blow for the industry in the UK and highlight diesel’s continued struggle. In previous months uncertainty over Brexit, the effects of VED changes and even the Government’s clean air plan have been blamed for the decline in sales and once again diesel has bourne the brunt of the decline.
While petrol vehicle registrations rose slightly (3.8 per cent) and alternatively fuelled vehicles were up 58.3 per cent on last year, diesel sales were down 21.3 per cent – a similar drop to previous months.
Alex Buttle, director, car buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk, commented: “Diesel continues to have a woeful 2017. Comparing last month to August 2016, the picture is a pretty bleak one. And the bad news keeps coming.
“Nearly every major car brand has announced their own diesel car scrappage schemes over the past few months.
“It’s unlikely to instil too much confidence in consumers to buy diesel when they see how little faith the manufacturers themselves have in diesel motors.
“On a more positive note, the AFV market is continuing to thrive. Although new car registrations were less than 4,000 last month, they were still up more than 50 per cent on August 2016.
“AFV sales continue to remain on an upward trajectory, but is the market growing fast enough? There’s now a massive responsibility on the shoulders of the AFV market to fill a diesel-shaped hole in flagging car sales.”
For the second month running the Ford Fiesta was kept from its usual top spot on the sales chart by the VW Golf, with Vauxhall’s Mokka X crossover close behind.