Sales of new cars have suffered their first annual drop in six years in 2017 according to figures released this morning.

The statistics revealed by SMMT show that overall annual demand fell by 5.7% in 2017, although the new car market is still third biggest in a decade at over 2.5 million vehicles.

December sale figures represent the ninth consecutive month of decline, as registrations for final month of year drop by 14.4%.

The decline particularly hit sales of Diesel vehicles which saw demand declines by 17.1%, undermining progress on emissions and CO2 as the industry body warns consumers could end up paying more in fuel if they travel high mileages.

However the Appetite for electrified cars reached record high, with almost 120,000 alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) hitting UK roads a 34.8% uplift.

The most popular vehicle choices were, once again, superminis, small family cars and SUVs (dual purpose), with the latter the only segment to grow demand in 2017. In fact, one in every five new cars sold in the UK is now dual purpose, up from one in 10 five years ago.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

The decline in the new car market is concerning but it’s important to remember demand remains at historically high levels. More than 2.5 million people drove away in a new car last year, benefitting from the latest, safest, cleanest and most fuel efficient technology.

Falling business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly taking a toll, however, and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car. Keeping older vehicles on the road will not only mean higher running costs but will hold back progress towards our environmental goals. Consumers should be encouraged to buy the right car for their lifestyle and driving needs irrespective of fuel type – whether that be petrol, electric, hybrid or diesel as it could save them money.

2017 has undoubtedly been a very volatile year and the lacklustre economic growth means that we expect a further weakening in the market for 2018. The upside for consumers, however, is some very, very competitive deals.

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