New Car Registration Data – 2018

A bar chart showing the annual new car registrations from 2001 to 2018.

New cars registered in the UK in 2018 is down 7% on the previous year

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), last year 2.36m new cars were registered, down from a 21st-century peak of  2.69m in 2016. The most significant fall was a 30% drop in diesel-powered registrations. Petrol-powered registrations rose 8.7% for the year, and plug-in hybrid and electric registrations rose 21%.

Speaking after revealing the number of new cars registered in the UK in 2018 was down 7% on the previous year, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) boss Mike Hawes said: “While the market is tough for the car makers, it means that there are some terrific offers on certain cars for consumers at the moment.

“It’s clear that as a result of a number of factors, including Brexit, that consumer confidence is down. But for those looking to buy a new car in the next three months then there are some great deals, especially around 0% finance, that can be sought out.”

‘Best-ever new car deals available’

Hawes stressed his belief that the latest, cleanest-ever diesels should still be on a buyer’s shortlist, pointing out that they now meet the same maximum levels for pollutants as petrol engines, under the toughest test regime Europe has ever imposed. As a result, Hawes added: “The latest diesel engines on sale today are clean enough to be exempt from legislation banning older diesels from city centres. The industry has made significant strides in cleaning up diesels.”

Hawes also highlighted a worrying trend of UK plug-in hybrid and electric sales growth being about half that of the average rises across the European market.

Last October the government announced it was dropping grants for plug-in hybrid purchases and reduced the allowance for electric cars and registrations have subsequently dropped dramatically, although the availability of plug-in hybrid vehicles has been severely impacted since new emissions tests were introduced in September.

Hawes said: The government has laid out a glide path to zero emissions sales only, yet it has removed or reduced the incentive that was driving people towards those vehicles.

“Car buyers are quite reasonably confused and we all have a job to do in order to present a consistent, fact-based argument to persuade people of the right vehicles to buy for their needs, be it a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric.”

Car manufacturers are predicting they face another tough year of sales in 2019, with a 2% drop on 2018’s figure expected. While that raises the prospect of keen discounts being a factor throughout the year, the drop in the value of the pound against the euro since the result of the 2016 Brexit vote has greatly reduced the capacity for carmakers manufacturing in Europe to offer larger discounts to UK car buyers.

Despite the downturn, however, there were still some winners in 2018, so here’s a list of the top 10 best-selling new cars of 2018.

1. Ford Fiesta
2.  Volkswagen Golf
3.  Vauxhall Corsa
4.  Nissan Qashqai
5.  Ford Focus
6.  Volkswagen Polo
7.  MINI
8.  Mercedes-Benz A-Class
9.  Ford Kuga
10.  Kia Sportage


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