Ford FiestaThe slump in Britain’s new car market continued in October with registrations down 12.2 percent year-on-year, according to latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

The decline in diesel car sales was even more stark: they were down nearly 30 percent, due to ongoing concerns over emissions and the threat of anti-diesel car charging schemes. 

Diesel took less than a 40 percent share of new car sales in October; in 2016, its share was nearly 50 percent.  

Registrations of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), in contrast, grew 36.9 percent, to over 8,200 units. AFVs, which include electric cars and plug-in hybrids, took a 5.2 percent market share in October 2017.

The SMMT has blamed a decline in both consumer and business confidence, and called upon the government to restore market stability in this month’s autumn budget. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the lack of confidence “is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel. 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.

“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.”

Year to date, the UK new car market is down 4.6 percent, which the SMMT says is in line with its recent revised forecast of a 4.7 percent fall in new car sales. It is expected 2.565 million new cars will be sold in Britain in 2017; so far, 2.224 million new cars have been registered. 

Business car sales were down a substantial 26.8 percent in October, although the sector’s overall share was a relatively small 2.7 percent. More significant was a 13 percent fall in fleet car sales; fleet and business sales combined take more than 55 percent of the new car market. Private sales were hit too though, down by more than 10 percent. 

It was at least good news for Ford, though: the Fiesta at last returned to the top spot in registrations, after the lengthy roll-out of the all-new model. It means the Fiesta’s position as the UK’s best-selling car year-to-date should be secure. 

The UK-built Nissan Qashqai dropped to fourth place, and other surprises include the Kia Sportage in sixth place, the outgoing Volkswagen Polo still taking eighth place and the BMW 4 Series coupe range outselling the BMW 3 Series saloon range. 

UK top 10 best selling cars – October 2017

1 Ford Fiesta

2 Volkswagen Golf

3 Ford Focus

4 Nissan Qashqai

5 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

6 Kia Sportage

7 Audi A3

8 Volkswagen Polo

9 BMW 4 Series

10 Ford Kuga