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UK March 2018: VW strong in market down 15.7%, diesel down 37.2%

What diesel scandal? The VW Golf is up 29% in a market down 16%.

* See the Top 42 brands and Top 10 models by clicking on the title *

As expected, new car sales in the UK take a 15.7% year-on-year hit in March, traditionally one of the two high-selling months in the country as new license plates get released. The combined effects of an artificially boosted score a year ago in March 2017 when sales were brought forward to avoid an impending tax rise, poor consumer confidence following Brexit and negative perceptions over diesel emissions mean the UK market is down to 474.069 units, roughly equivalent to its 2014 level of 464.824 registrations. The year-to-date volume is down 12.4% to 718.489 sales, also the lowest since 2014 (688.122).

March UK sales return to their 2014 level.

According to a survey by Auto Trader, over 60% of recent or prospective car buyers have had their decision-making influenced by Britain’s exit from the European Union, including some delaying a purchase. Of note are diesel sales imploding 37.2% to just 153.594 and 32.4% share vs. 43.5% a year ago while petrol sales edge up 0.5% to 296.349 and 62.5% share vs. 52.4%. Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (hybrid, EV and PHEV) are up 5.7% to 24.126 or 5.1% share, one percentage point above its level of March 2017. All distribution channels are hit in equal measure: private sales drop 16.5% to 228.623, fleets sink 15% to 222.595 and business sales fall 14.3% to 22.851.

The Ford Kuga posts a 6th consecutive month in the Top 10 and now ranks #6 YTD.

In the brands ranking, after having defied the overall gloom last month with a 22% gain, market leader Ford falls flat in March with a painful 30% drop to just 10.6% share. Volkswagen on the other hand manages to limit its fall to just 4% resulting in an improved 8% share. This is the 10th time in the past 11 months that VW ranks #2, a position it snapped over the Full Year 2017 away from Vauxhall, down another 20% this month but up 3 spots on February. Mercedes (-7%) lead healthy premium carmakers BMW (-9%) and Audi (-3%) all improving their share.

What market decline? McLaren soars 78% year-on-year in March.

Hyundai is the only Top 10 carmaker to post a year-on-year gain, albeit a very slim 0.4%. Nissan (-34%) is the hardest hit while Kia (-4%) and Toyota (-8%) beat the market. Further down, McLaren (+78%), MG (+49%), Abarth (+17%), Mitsubishi (+15%), Subaru (+8%), Seat (+6%), Lexus (+4%) and Honda (+2%) can be proud to be the only Top 40 manufacturers in positive. At the other end of the scale, Infiniti (-84%), Aston Martin (-46%), Smart (-45%), Bentley (-36%), Maserati (-36%), Fiat (-34%), Dacia (-30%), Jeep (-27%), Land Rover (-26%), DS (-24%) and Renault (-24%) all lose at least a quarter of their sales compared with March 2017.

China-made MG sales soar 49% this month in the UK.

Model-wise, the Ford Fiesta posts a third consecutive win but falls faster than the market at -24% to 4.1% share, followed by the VW Golf gaining a staggering 29% to 2.9% share. The Nissan Qashqai leaps up to #3 with a contained 13% year-on-year decline allowing it to #3 YTD which would be a new record if sustained until the end of 2018. The Vauxhall Corsa jumps from outside the February Top 10 back to #4 but loses 27%, yet that’s better than the Ford Focus crumbling down 45% just as the new generation is about to be revealed in China. Excellent performance of the Ford Kuga at #6, down just 6% and lodging a 6th consecutive Top 10 finish: it now ranks #6 YTD vs. #12 in FY2017. Mercedes manages to place both the A-Class (#8) and C-Class (#9) in the Top 10 while the Kia Sportage rounds it out.

Previous post: UK Full Year 2017: Discover the Top 150 best-selling models

Previous month: UK February 2018: Ford ignores surrounding gloom at +22%

One year ago: UK March 2017: Upcoming tax change triggers all-time record month

Full March 2018 Top 42 brands and Top 10 models below.

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