Figures Show Car Sales Fell by 1.1 Per Cent Last Month
October was the first month in almost four years during which the number of new cars registered in the UK actually declined according to the SMMT.
The 1.1 per cent dip in sales is seen as significant, although analysts also point out that so far in 2015 the market has continued a trend of strong growth, hitting 2.274 million registrations to date. This is a 6.4 per cent increase on 2014’s sales performance and shows that the slowdown in October may not be a sign of worse things to come.
Some observers have suggested that the decline in sales may be attributed to the emissions scandal that is still engulfing the Volkswagen Group and its various automotive brands. It saw a 9.84 per cent fall in sales last month across the board, although, interestingly, the VW-owned Audi actually benefited from a two per cent boost to its sales year on year.
VW’s plight is put into context when you consider that many of its rivals suffered even worse fates on the forecourt in October, with Vauxhall sales reduced by 16.39 per cent. Ford faired a little better but still saw an eight per cent decrease in new car registrations, in spite of the fact that, like Vauxhall, it has so far avoided being caught up in the emissions scandal.
Report spokesperson Mike Hawes told the BBC that the ongoing issue with emissions was a contributing factor to the downturn in UK car sales, but not in the way that some might think. Rather than simply shunning VW Group vehicles in favour of models from rival manufacturers, British motorists appear to be taking much more time to carry out research before making a purchase as a result of the high-profile scandal.
This is having a knock-on effect for other manufacturers too, with more caution amongst buyers meaning that companies are having to work harder to sell their cars at the moment, meaning that it could be some time until the veil of mistrust that hangs over the industry is lifted.
Hawes said that the past few years have seen the car market in the UK expand at a speed which few analysts had predicted. He pointed out that 2015 was still a year in which sales growth was occurring at a rate not seen since the 2008 credit crunch, although he indicated that perhaps the market was now starting to settle down as demand decreases.
Hawes also explained that there are a number of economic factors still in place to encourage consumers to buy new cars in the UK at the moment, including things such as low interest rates and a range of appealing finance deals. As a result of the strength of the market so far, analysts expect that sales performance over 2015 as a whole will still manage to meet initial expectations in spite of the dent that the emissions scandal has put in customer confidence.
Although Ford saw its sales slip last month, it still managed to hold on to the top spot with the Fiesta, which sold over 8500 units in October to become the UK’s most popular car once again. This brings the total number of new Fiestas sold to almost 120,000 in 2015 alone.
VW’s Golf remained strong with a third place finish in the sales charts, with the Audi A3 finding its way into sixth position, just ahead of the VW Polo, according to AutoExpress. So drivers’ appetites for models from the VW Group have not been eliminated but rather switched to specific models which do not feature the diesel engine that is the source of the concerns.
Monthly growth may not return in November, but analysts will be watching the market closely to see whether or not demand really has reached a plateau or taken a temporary step backwards before a subsequent resurgence.