Record first six months for UK car sales

Ford Fiesta - front tracking
6 Jul, 2016 1:30pm Joe Finnerty

However, demand for new cars is expected to stabilise for the next quarter as the fallout from Brexit continues to develop

The first six months of 2016 have been record breaking for the UK car market, with over 1,420,000 new registrations, but according to the latest figures from the Society of Manufacturers and Traders the market is slowing down. 

Demand for new cars was up 3.2 per cent in the first half of 2016, but figures for June show a small, -0.8 per cent decline in sales compared to the previous year. June 2016 saw 255,766 new vehicle registrations. The outcome of the recent EU referendum, where the UK voted to leave the European Union, could trigger a further decline in new car sales. Earlier predictions, predating the referendum outcome, expected new car sales to stabilise over the second half of 2016. 

The first six months of 2016 saw growth across all fuel types. Diesel and petrol registrations grew by 2.3 and 3.0 per cent compared to last year, while alternatively fuelled vehicles continue to rise in popularity. Registrations for alternatively fuelled vehicles were up 21.3 per cent compared to the first six months of 2015 - suggesting another bumper year for green car sales. 

The last few months have shown a decline in private car registrations, with June figures showing private car purchases down by 4.5 per cent. Fortunately, fleet sales continue rise, with June numbers showing an equivalent 4.5 per cent increase. 

• Best selling cars in 2016 so far

The Volkswagen Golf has been bumped down as the second best seller for June by both the Vauxhall Corsa and the Focus to fourth place. The German hatchback was the second best selling car in the UK for the last few months, but has now been overtaken by its rival from Ford. 

The Ford Fiesta remains some way out in front while the rest of the top 10 was made up by familiar models like the Volkswagen Polo in eight. Vauxhall was again represented by both the Corsa and Astra in second and seventh respectively.

The British-built Nissan Qashqai was the sixth best seller while the Mercedes C-Class and the Vauxhall Mokka also found their way into the top 10 alongside the MINI in fifth.

Nissan Qashqai - front

The performance of the compact executive has helped Mercedes to increase sales by nearly 20 per cent this year. Equally impressive was Jaguar Land Rover, which saw year-to-date registrations go up by over 67 per cent for Jaguar, and 17 per cent for Land Rover. Elsewhere, Mitsubishi and Nissan - both hit by their own emissions scandals - saw sales fall in June.

Whether the new car market will continue to enjoy similar growths in the next six months remains to be seen. The recent Brexit has caused Sterling to take its deepest dive in 31 years, and the uncertainty over labour and export/import laws could hurt new car registrations in the near future. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It is far too soon to determine whether the referendum result has had an impact on the new car market. The first six months saw strong demand at record levels but the market undoubtedly cooled over the second quarter. It’s important government takes every measure to restore business and economic confidence to avoid the market contracting in the coming months." 

Check out our round-up of the best selling cars of 2016 so far...