‘Increasing confusion’ over emissions impacting new car sales

‘Increasing confusion’ over emissions impacting new car sales
Mixed messaging over ultra-low emissions vehicles impacted new car registrations last year.

New government data reveals just 3.1 million cars were registered over 2017 – the first decrease since 2011.

While declining diesel sales – now down 17% – remains the main contributor to falling figures, the RAC has warned “increasing confusion” over what kind of vehicle buyers should opt for next is also dragging on sales, as well as hampering clean air schemes.

While buyers are being encouraged to opt for greener ultra-low emissions vehicles, recent changes to Vehicle Excise Duty – which came into place in April 2017 and makes taxing the cars more expensive – appears to be putting them off new cars altogether.

RAC roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: “These statistics appear to confirm an uncomfortable truth – that new car registrations are falling because there is increasing confusion over what vehicles drivers should opt for next.

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The risk is that owners are holding on to their older vehicles for longer. This is bad news as far as efforts to improve local air quality is concerned as like-for-like newer models have lower emissions.

As we feared, it also seems to be the case that the changes to Vehicle Excise Duty brought in last year may be actively putting people off choosing an ultra-low emission vehicle.

“While drivers of electric vehicles benefit from paying no vehicle tax, those that opt for new ultra-low-emission vehicles now pay more after the first year than they did previously, which arguably doesn’t send the right message to prospective buyers looking to do the right thing,” My Lyes added.

“Indeed, after the first year, there is almost no car tax incentive to switch to any new vehicle with lower than average emissions.”

However, it wasn’t all bad news as while overall figures fell, there was a 27% increase in ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) registered in the United Kingdom – accounting for 1.7% of all new vehicle registrations.

Mr Lyes noted: “The numbers of ultra-low emission vehicles chosen by drivers still represent a tiny fraction of the total new registrations. The future might be zero-emission, but before we get there much more needs to be done to encourage people into the cleanest alternatives.”

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At the end of 2017 there were 18.3 million petrol cars licensed, 12.4 million diesel cars and only 492,000 alternative fuel vehicles.

Elsewhere, commercial and company cars helped boost new car registrations accounting for 58% of the total number.

The most popular manufacturers were Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, BMW and Audi which accounted for 44% of all licenced cars at the end of 2017.

The most popular car last year was the Ford Fiesta with 93,000 new registrations. This was followed by the Volkswagen Golf with 76,000 and the Ford Focus with 69,000.

Copyright Press Association 2018. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.