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The UK new car market slumped again in 2019 with the number of vehicles registered falling for the third consecutive year, according to figures released by the SMMT.

In total, 2,311,140 units were registered last year, representing a -2.4% decline as the turbulent market reacted to weak business and consumer confidence, general political and economic instability and confusion over clean air zones, the SMMT said.

True fleet registrations dropped by 4.8%

However, fleet registrations remained broadly stable compared with 2018’s figures, up 0.8%. Demand fell across nearly all vehicle segments, with only the dual purpose and specialist sports categories experiencing growth, up 12.0% and 19.2% respectively. Despite registrations of superminis and lower medium cars falling (by 6.0% and 4.0% respectively), these smaller vehicles remain the most popular – with a combined 57.1% market share, the organisation added.

There was growth in demand for petrol cars, up 2.2%, but the SMMT said this was not enough to offset the 21.8% decline in diesel registrations and said December marked the 33rd month of diesel decline, as continued anti-diesel rhetoric and confusion over clean air zones hit demand.

The SMMT also published data suggesting the UK new car fleet average CO2 rose for a third successive year, by 2.7% to 127.9g/km, however, it said new cars emit, on average 29.3% less CO2 than models produced in 2000.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: A third year of decline for the UK new car market is a significant concern for industry and the wider economy. Political and economic uncertainty, and confusing messages on clean air zones have taken their toll on buyer confidence, with demand for new cars at a six-year low.A stalling market will hinder industry’s ability to meet stringent new CO2 targets and, importantly, undermine wider environmental goals. We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift. Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.”