TODAY’S news that new cars sales fell by three per cent last month has been met with an air of resignation but with optimism still evident.
James Fairclough, chief executive of AA Cars said: ‘In truth, we had hoped that today’s figures would be slightly stronger. However, we are not overly surprised as the run-up to Christmas is a traditionally more muted time for the industry.
‘There are also other factors that have caused new car registrations to fall, including the VED upheaval, the introduction of new emissions regulations and the confusion over fuel types, not to mention the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which may well be causing people to delay their big-ticket purchases.
‘However, we are optimistic that this bottleneck will clear soon as we expect consumers to take advantage of compelling finance deals in the new year. On top of that, there’s lots of positive news to take from today’s figures in that certain fuel types have seen a significant increase in demand.’
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said: ‘The new car market saw a marginal decline in November and remains in line with annual forecasts. When short-term challenges are overcome, the market is expected to see the positive impacts.
‘The trend in pure-electric and plug-in vehicles sales is encouraging. Consumer appetite is increasing and, as supply improves, we expect electric vehicles’ market share to continue to grow. We look forward to December’s figures, which will allow us to understand the full picture of 2018’s new car market.’
Meanwhile, Auto Trader director Ian Plummer said: ‘Thanks to a perfect storm of unforeseen challenges over the last few months, retailers are facing a financially difficult close to 2018, but consumers could pick up the bargain of the year.
‘Despite what has been an undoubtedly challenging year for the industry, the market remains relatively buoyant. However, the full extent of the disruption caused by WLTP is only now becoming clear, and the knock-on effects will be felt across UK forecourts for some time to come.’
Alex Buttle, director of car-buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: ‘What does this tell us about the state of the new car industry when falling sales are a standard scenario? A three per cent overall sales decline in any other major sector would be disastrous but it’s business as usual for now. This is not so much a recession as a Great Depression for the whole industry.
‘New car sales have fallen off a cliff since the heady days of 2015, but there’s at least some positive news to draw from these figures, with petrol and AFV sales higher in November, although nowhere near enough to counter the decline in diesel sales.’