New car sales fell for a seventh consecutive month in October as new registrations suffered double-digit decline.

Some 158,192 new cars were registered in October, almost 22,000 fewer than in the same month last year and marking a 12.2 per cent drop, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Declines were witnessed across all sectors, with business and fleet sales down 26.8 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. The retail market was notably more sedate too, with private registrations down by 10.1 per cent for October.

September is typically a major month for car sales, with the introduction of a new reg plate, but even this failed to reverse a downward trajectory of new car registrations. As a result, many expect the decline to continue at least until the next new reg plate arrives in March 2018.

For 2017 to date, the overall market is down by 4.6 per cent on 2016 levels, with 2,224,603 cars registered in the first ten months.

This aligns with SMMT’s latest forecast for 2017, which predicts 2.565 million units for the year as a whole, marking a 4.7 per cent decline.

Policy confusion

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, believes weakening confidence amongst businesses and consumers is affecting demand in the new car market but confusion over government policy on diesel isn’t helping to improve the situation.

“Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK,” he commented.

“We urge the government to use the forthcoming Autumn Budget to restore stability to the market, encouraging the purchase of the latest low emission vehicles as fleet renewal is the fastest and most effective way of addressing air quality concerns.”

The Ford Fiesta was the biggest-selling model in October and is also the most popular car for the year so far. In fact the top four spots are identical in both October and 2017 YTD charts, with Volkswagen’s Golf in second, Ford Focus in third and Nissan Qashqai fourth.

Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, adds: “New car sales are widely looked to as a barometer of the economy’s health and with no obvious turnaround to the registrations decline, it’s likely they’ll continue falling for some time yet.”

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