United Kingdom auto registrations drop as diesel struggles to stay in gear

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Hawes cautioned, however, that March's number plate change might not bring about as significant a surge in sales as previous years have seen: "Looking ahead to the crucial number plate change month of March, we expect a further softening, given March 2017 was a record as registrations were pulled forward to avoid VED changes". However, numerous very latest diesel vehicles can emit lower levels of greenhouse gases than their petrol counterparts and should continue to have an important role for a large proportion of vehicle users.

"Consumers should be reassured, however, that the latest cars are the cleanest in history and can help address air quality issues".

There were 80,805 cars registered in February, a month that's traditionally lower than average due to the new plate arriving in March.

The Ford Fiesta was the most popular vehicle last month with 5,201 models sold, while the Volkswagen Golf came second, and the Ford Focus third.

Commenting on today's figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: 'Although the new auto market has dipped, it remains at a good level despite the drop in demand for diesel.

There were declines across private, fleet and business sales, with experts saying that squeezed consumers were reluctant to make big-ticket purchases and businesses were unwilling to replace or expand fleets amid the political uncertainty.

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Demand for petrol and AFVs rose were up 14.4% and 7.2% respectively in February, with the former driven by some new, smaller models coming to market.

February is often a quieter month in auto sales, due to the number plate change in March, which is when a quarter of all cars are registered every year. This suggests that diesel drivers are keeping older cars for longer - disappointing considering the latest diesels can help address air quality issues.

'However, the fact that February marked an 11th successive decline of falling vehicle sales, points to a sustained loss of momentum in the sector'. That should set alarm bells ringing in government but the bells are worryingly silent.

Britain's vehicle industry body expects demand for new cars to fall by a further 5% to 7% this year before recovering next year, amid uncertainty caused by Brexit and the government's diesel policy.

What's the most popular vehicle?

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