Sales of hybrid and electric cars slow


The auto industry is bracing for a third consecutive year of weak vehicle sales after back-to-back slumps in 2017 and 2018.

SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said "the pace of growth is falling behind the rest of Europe".

Investment looks very likely to have fallen in 2018 and sales this year are forecast to drop again as the SMMT warned a no-deal Brexit would hit jobs. "The flip side of that is: "Well I don't know what's going to happen to the economy if you have a no deal so I'll wait and see".

"No deal is not an option", Hawes said.

The SMMT has a clear position that a "no deal" Brexit is not an option and it wants to ensure that there is a degree of continuity. Private and smaller business operator registrations were down 6.4% and 5.6% respectively.

Hawes warned that manufacturers are unlikely to allocate large quantities of EV stock to the United Kingdom if those sales don't count towards their targets.

The diesel sector saw the biggest decline, down -29.6% in 2018, with the volume loss equivalent to some 180% of the overall market's decline.

Some diesel auto owners are switching to petrol (up 9%) or alternatively fuelled vehicles (up 21%) such as plug-in hybrids or pure electrics, but the majority are holding on to their existing cars, SMMT figures show.

Diesel cars typically produce less Carbon dioxide than petrol vehicles.

The rise in petrol sales and drop in diesel means the average Carbon dioxide emissions of new cars sold in Britain in 2018 rose just under 3 per cent, posing a headache for automakers who need to reduce levels to meet stricter regulations.

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It said that while a switch to tougher emissions testing was part of the reason for this, the move away from diesels also had a significant impact.

Registrations of petrol (+8.7 per cent) and alternatively fuelled vehicles (+20.9 per cent) offset some of the loss. However, he said: "It's not just plug-in vehicles that can contribute towards sustainability targets".

Private registrations were down 6.4%, while fleet was down 7.3%.

"We will be taking part in the consultation on WLTP and are urging customers to do the same".

A customer switch towards bigger cars, in particular SUVs, also contributed to greater average Carbon dioxide emissions.

Justin Benson, head of automotive at KPMG UK, acknowledged the resurgence in petrol powered vehicles and a rise in AFVs. The demand for diesel vehicles has declined, according to the data of nearly 30 percent.

"Rising residual values for electric vehicles will significantly help future new AFV sales in 2019 and beyond".

Jon Lawes, managing director of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, believes that overcoming obstacles to the commercial adoption of AFVs is now critical to maintain and accelerate momentum in 2019.

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine, told the Press Association the 7% decline in new car sales previous year represents an "abrupt downturn", but he believes the automotive industry remains "reasonably robust".

Hawes called the new system a "once in a generation" change.

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