Fleet News

New car sales recover slightly as model availability improves

Following September’s significant decline of 22.49%, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that October registrations were down 2.9% year-on-year, leaving the market down 7.2% year-to-date.

Volkswagen suffered a drop of more than 50% in new car registrations in September due to a lack of models homologated under the new WLTP emissions standards.

In October, the German brand appeared to be back on track, with total registrations just 90 cars behind the same month last year.

However, dig a little deeper and the reason for Volkswagen’s performance becomes clear: the T-Roc, which only came on sale in September. The company sold 1,736 in October (of which 613 were in fleet).

The Tiguan was also a rare beacon of success, up 52% at 3,370. Both cars helped to offset huge registrations reversals in other core models.

The Golf, for example, was down 32% (or 1,782 units) at 3,765, although it remains the UK’s second best selling model year-to-date, while the Passat fared even worse, falling almost 57% to just 501 units.

Volkswagen dealers told Fleet News they expect only marginal improvements in availability over the next couple of months.

Despite the SMMT figures, a spokesperson for Volkswagen insisted that its sales performance “continues to make steady progress, in line with the brand’s plans for 2018”.

He added: “While September’s vehicle registration figures were affected by the migration to the new WLTP testing process, this was a temporary influence on the brand’s performance here.”

Nick Hardy, sales and marketing manager at Ogilvie Fleet, said: “Volkswagen has been working on getting more vehicles available for ordering and there has been a flurry of vehicles released. Most powertrains have now been tested and are available to order.”

Hardy added that some variants of the 2.0-litre TDI engine remain unavailable to order, although some fleets have told Fleet News that the manual 1.6 TDI is also unavailable.

Seat and Škoda increased registrations by 2.9% and 3.1% respectively, although the latter was entirely down to the new Karoq and Fabia.

Premium brand Audi continued to struggle, with total registrations down 52.6%. The A4 (down 88%), A1 (down 71%) and Q3 (down 76%) were its worst performers.

A number of other major models lost sales in October, including the Vauxhall Insignia (down 53%), Ford Mondeo (down 48%) and Fiesta (down 23%), Nissan Qashqai (down 28%) and BMW 4 Series (down 62%).

Zenith declined to comment on specific brands but said the number of quotable cars available in its systems was increasing, with 20% more vehicles available for quoting since August.

So far this year, 1,136,082 cars have been registered to fleet and business, compared with 1,231,723 for the same period in 2017 – a fall of almost 100,000 units.

In total, 2,064,419 new cars were registered in the first 10 months of 2018, 160,000 units fewer than last year.

Electric vehicles saw impressive growth, up 86.9% in October. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles also enjoyed strong uplifts, growing 31% and 19.1% respectively.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “VED upheaval, regulatory changes and confusion over diesel have all made their mark so it’s good to see plug-in registrations buck the trend. Demand is still far from the levels needed to offset losses elsewhere, however, and is making the Government’s decision to remove purchase incentives even more baffling.

“We need policies that encourage rather than confuse. Government’s forthcoming review of WLTP’s impact on taxation must ensure that buyers of the latest, cleanest cars are not unfairly penalised.”


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