TODAY’S SMMT figures for new car registrations in May drew a wide-ranging response from industry figures.
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said: ‘The continued decline in new vehicle sales reflects the current political and economic environment. Consumers will continue delaying decisions on major investments such as new vehicles until we have greater clarity.
‘Pleasingly, despite the decline in new vehicle sales, the used car market continues to perform strongly, demonstrating that the consumer still has options when it comes to purchasing vehicles.’
Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, reinforced this, saying: ‘It’s only through effective policy decisions and clear communication of future plans, alongside well-targeted incentives for all fuel types, that we’ll be able to encourage private and fleet buyers to invest in cleaner models.
‘Dealerships I speak to are telling me there’s still plenty of interest from buyers and lots of good financing offers available – we just need to make sure the right support is there to help them close sales and get car registrations back into positive territory.’
Ian Plummer, commercial director at Auto Trader, warned of the damage caused by the drop in the value of the pound. ‘One of the effects of Brexit on the economy has been a hit on the exchange rate. As sterling falls, car brands don’t see the UK as such a profitable let alone stable market,’ he said.
‘As such, the UK is running an ever greater risk of not getting its share of the most desirable cars coming off international production lines. Too many of the most sought-after vehicles will be going elsewhere in Europe.’
The cutting of grants wouldn’t have helped either, according to Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk, who said: ‘As every month passes, the government’s decision to cut hybrid and electric car grants last year when the market needed to maintain momentum looks even more baffling.
‘Electric is the future, but AFV market growth is vulnerable in the short term and in danger of grinding to a halt. The grants did at least encourage early switching – yet now we’re likely to see many people choosing to stick with what they’ve got until the impact of Brexit is known to potential buyers.’
Acknowledging disappointment over the fact that new car registrations had slipped for the third month in a row, James Fairclough, chief executive of AA Cars, had another theory about the slowdown.
‘2019’s falls have been modest, suggesting that drivers are not turning their backs on buying a new vehicle, but are instead spending more time considering their purchase than perhaps they might have done in the past.’