New car sales extend decline at start of 2019

(c) Sky News 2019: <a href="">New car sales extend decline at start of 2019</a>

New (KOSDAQ: 160550.KQ - news) car sales in the UK fell by 1.6% in January compared to the same period last year, extending the decline for Britain's beleaguered auto industry.

The figures from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) come days after Japanese car maker Nissan said it was no longer planning to build new X-Trail models at its car plant in Sunderland.

Annual figures for 2018 showed new car sales fell 7% over the year - the second year in a row of declines and the biggest fall since 2008.

The latest SMMT data, for January 2019, showed 161,013 vehicles left forecourts last month, down from 163,615 a year earlier.

It was the fifth consecutive month of decline and was driven by a slump in demand for diesel cars - down 20% - continued to lead the decline, while petrol car sales were up 7%.

There was also an overall increase in sales to private owners, after a fall in December - but there were downturns in the business and fleet buyer market.

Demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles such as hybrid and electric cars rose 26%.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "To restore momentum, we need supportive policies, not least on vehicle taxation, to encourage buyers to invest in new, cleaner vehicles that best suit their driving needs - from the latest petrols and diesels to an ever growing range of exciting electrified vehicles."

The figures come after the SMMT recently issued a "red alert" over Brexit, as production and investment in the car industry tumble ahead of a possible no-deal scenario.