The decline could be largely attributable to the Government's confusing stance on diesel where it is penalising diesel drivers at the pump - Budget fuel duty increases of 6.14p a litre/27.9p a gallon on ordinary diesel and 4.96p a litre/22.5p a gallon on ultra low sulphur diesel compared with 4.25p a litre/19.3p gallon for petrol - despite its company car tax plans clearly favouring diesel.
Last month a total of 49,023 diesel cars were sold (March 1998: 34,562) of which 25,196 were acquired by fleets (March 1998: 20,083). Despite fleet diesel sales increasing 25.5% year-on-year they took just a 16.6% share of the March fleet market - down from 19.5% in March last year. Total diesel car sales in the first quarter of this year are down 13.5% at 86,583 (1998: 100,415).
Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel models in March were: Peugeot 306 2,821, Peugeot 406 2,313, Ford Mondeo 2,157, Vauxhall Astra 1,805, Vauxhall Vectra 1,284, Ford Focus 1,081, Volkswagen Passat 1,057, Volkswagen Golf 923, Ford Escort 725, Ford Galaxy 598. Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel manufacturers in March were: Peugeot 6,086, Ford 4,931, Vauxhall 3,704, Volkswagen 2,538, Renault 1,479, Citroen 1,254, Rover 1,201, Nissan 672, Audi 540, Toyota 490.