New vehicle sales dip -2.8% in February, diesel down -23.5%

British new auto registrations fell by 2.5 percent in February from a year earlier, continuing a downward trend, according to preliminary data released by an industry body on Monday The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) will release the final registration numbers at 0900 GMT.

So far this year, the United Kingdom new vehicle market has declined by 5.1%.

SMMT chief Mike Hawes said: "February is typically a quiet month as buyers await the March plate change so the rise in demand is welcome news".

The SMMT said it was a "disappointing performance given that latest low-emission vehicles can help address air quality issues".

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry's trade body, said sales totalled 80,805 last month.

The Ford Fiesta remained the best-selling auto last month, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus. Fleet registrations fell 2.5% to 44,554 units while sub-25 "business" registrations were down 30.4% (974 units) and private registrations declined 2.0% (35,227).

Things were less encouraging elsewhere though: demand for diesels dropped by 25.6 per cent compared to January 2017, while the MPV, executive and city auto segments experienced the biggest declines.

Registrations of new diesel cars declined -23.5%.

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Sales of petrol cars rose 14.4% in February, taking their market share to 60.6% from 51.5%.

Justin Benson, head of automotive at KPMG in the United Kingdom, added: 'Diesel should still be a relevant choice for consumers, as the latest technology does help address air quality issues.

What's causing the decline in new vehicle sales in the UK?

"Ongoing noise around diesel continues to cause confusion in the marketplace, so it's not surprising to see new vehicle registrations are down".

"While diesel cars are becoming less popular as drivers look to "go green", these figures show that consumers have not rushed towards alternatively fuelled cars as some expected".

"However, numerous very latest diesel vehicles can emit lower levels of greenhouse gases than their petrol counterparts and should continue to have an important role for a large proportion of vehicle users".

It comes as the Chancellor announced at last year's Autumn Statement that anyone who buys a diesel auto from April 2018 that doesn't meet a new emissions standard will have to pay tax on it one band higher than before for the first year, in some cases resulting in a £500 increase.

"Our message to fleet managers and individual drivers is to stay focused on getting the right vehicle for the right job, and to seek expert advice when considering a shift in vehicle fleet policy or choosing a new auto".

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