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New car sales drop for first time since 2012

Monthly new car sales have fallen for the first time in three and a half years, with Volkswagen, Ford and Vauxhall all suffering

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For the first time in more than three and a half years, monthly new car registrations have dropped. Growth of the market levelled off in October, with suggestions that the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal may be to blame.

The UK market had seen growth for 43 consecutive months, but figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal a 1.1% drop in new car registrations compared to last year. In October 2014, 179,714 new cars were registered, but in October 2015 they fell to 177,664.

Diesel car registrations were hit hardest, with a 0.5% drop in October, and falling by 1.7% across the year so far compared with 2014. Petrol car registrations rose by 0.2% in October, with a 1% boost overall, leading experts to suggest that British consumers could be starting to turn away from diesel cars in the wake of the VW emissions scandal.

The jump in registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) such as hybrids and pure-electric cars also suggests this. AFV registrations rose by 13.8% over last October, and for the first time were 3% of total registrations for that month. Manufacturers’ increased focus upon hybrid and electric models will also have contributed to this.

Volkswagen’s market share decreased by almost 10% last month compared to 2014, but rivals Ford and Vauxhall also posted market share losses. Skoda fell by just over 3%, with Seat suffering a 32.23% drop. Audi’s market share increased by over 2%.

In spite of the poor October figures, 2015 is 6.4% up on 2014, which had the best year-to-date figure on record, with 2,274,550 new cars registered.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: "The UK car market has gone through a period of unprecedented growth and, so far, 2015 has been a bumper year with the strongest performance since the recession.

"As expected, demand has now begun to level off but the sector is in a strong position, as low interest rates, consumer confidence and exciting new products combine to attract new car buyers. The current full-year growth forecast remains on track."

The luxury saloon market enjoyed a 59% bump in registrations, while specialist sports cars performed well, with a 23.1% increase.

The high-value market segments enjoyed significant gains, with specialist sports and luxury saloon vehicle registrations growing 59.0% and 23.1% respectively.

The UK’s most-registered new cars in October 2015

1 Ford Fiesta 8577 cars registered

2 Vauxhall Corsa 5061

3 Volkswagen Golf 5057

4 Ford Focus 4913

5 Nissan Qashqai 4544

6 Audi A3 3884

7 Volkswagen Polo 3233

8 Nissan Juke 3155

9 BMW 1 Series 2944

10 BMW 3 Series 2805

By Jimi Beckwith