New car market remains buoyant in February, but diesel dips

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Author: | Updated: 06 Mar 2017 12:28

Demand for new cars remained steady in February, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) show.

Registrations dipped just –0.3% in what is traditionally one of the quietest months for the car industry.

The Mercedes-Benz C Class proved a popular choice this month...

83,115 new vehicles were registered last month – impressive, considering many people usually hold off until the arrival of a shiny new number plate in March. This means that year-to-date registration numbers are up 1.8%, to 257,679 registrations.

It was once again the fleet industry (which includes personal contract hire) that drove the market, up 3.3% year-on-year accounting for 45,699 registrations. Private demand on the other hand, fell by -4.4% to 36,018 units, while business registrations declined too.

Down just -0.3%, February's registration numbers shows the resilience of the UK auto industry.

The popularity of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) continues to grow, with a record 3,308 hitting the road in February. That represents a huge 48.9% jump compared to the same period last year, with AFVs now accounting for 4% of the new car market.

Is the downfall of diesel beginning?

This is of course the result of major investments by manufacturers into cutting edge, but we can’t help but think that the –9.2% year-on-year slump in diesel registrations has more to do with it, and is likely fuelled by its bad press in recent months.

Will AFVs continue to bite into diesel's market share?

Commenting on February’s registrations, SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes said: “February is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year and a steady performance was expected following another year of record growth in 2016.”

Despite the new car market shrinking by –0.3% in February, March’s outlook is significantly better, partly thanks to the issue of the 17 plate, and partly because of a rush before VED rates change in April.

February is traditionally one of the quietest months for registrations, ahead of the plate change in March...

Hawes said: “We expect to see the market bounce back in March as buyers take advantage of the new ’17-plate, as well as the last chance to buy a car eligible for current lower VED rates before they change on 1 April.”

The top 10…

There’s no surprises when it comes to the most popular cars of the year so far, with all the usual suspects accounted for in the top ten. Interestingly, the Mercedes C-Class has climbed its way into fifth position.

We’ll have to wait another few months before the table settles down though…

February 2017

Year-to-date

1. Ford Fiesta – 4,282

1. Ford Fiesta – 12,777

2. Volkswagen Golf – 2,949

2. Volkswagen Golf – 8,404

3. Vauxhall Astra – 2,170

3. Ford Focus – 6,767

4. Ford Focus – 1,971

4. Vauxhall Astra – 6,235

5. Nissan Qashqai – 1,829

5. Mercedes C-Class – 5,990

6. Mercedes C-Class – 1,760

6. Nissan Qashqai – 5,329

7. Volkswagen Polo – 1,746

7. Vauxhall Corsa – 5,260

8. Audi A3 – 1,532

8. Nissan Juke – 4,759

9. Vauxhall Corsa – 1,362

9. Volkswagen Polo – 4,742

10. BMW 3 Series – 1,341

10. Audi A3 – 4,650

Read about January’s registrations here

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