United Kingdom new auto sales slump ahead of Brexit 'existential threat'

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Mike Hawes SMMT chief executive says customers are'sitting on their hands

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Mike Hawes SMMT chief executive says customers are'sitting on their hands

It's expected that more than 2.8 million electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be sold globally in 2019, according to electric vehicle expert Prajyot Sathe at market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The UK new vehicle market declined by -6.8 per cent in 2018, with annual registrations falling for a second year to 2,367,147 units, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

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.

As part of a 6.8% fall in the overall market, the number of registrations to fleets was down 7.3%, compared with a 6.4% fall in private registrations. This is despite huge investment by manufacturers to deliver ever more efficient cars, with the average new or updated model emitting -8.3% less Carbon dioxide than that it replaced.

Barnett told Fleet News that it was "positive" that alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) had a strong year with registration growth of over 20%.

In the AFV sector, petrol electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up +21.3 per cent to 81,156 units. She went back to the data, nearly 30 per cent reflecting the development in other countries. Pure electric cars grew 13.8 per cent during 2018 but make up 0.7 per cent of the market with 15,474 registrations.

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But the SMMT said the biggest challenge for the industry could lie ahead.

The society's chief executive Mike Hawes described 2018 as "highly turbulent" and warned that a drop in consumer confidence linked to Brexit, concern about diesels and the impact of a new testing regime are all having a negative effect on the market.

'The industry is facing ever-tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers.

Alex Buttle, director of auto buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: "If ever there was a year to file away and forget about, 2018 was that year for the United Kingdom vehicle industry".

While demand for new cars fell in 2018, the SMMT reports that the market remains solid, with volumes on a part with the rolling 15-year average, while the United Kingdom new vehicle market remains the second highest in the European Union - behind Germany.

"The supply chain is taking the brunt of the immediate pressure in terms of stockpiling inventory and the next few months are going to critical". In an uncertain trading climate, where costs are increasing and demand is nosediving, they are expected to keep investing in technologies and skills to enhance the viability of all-electric and autonomous driving.

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