Brexit fears cause

car sales slump

Ford Fiesta tops March sales chart
Vauxhall Corsa: second best seller in March
Look, no hands - Self Driving Range Rover Sport
Self Driving Range Rover Sport

BREXIT uncertainty and anti-diesel rhetoric led to another drop in UK car sales in March - the month when sales can normally be guaranteed to increase because of the switch to the latest registration plate.

Sales of new cars dropped by 3.4 per cent compared with the same month last year with trade organisation the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) blaming the slump on political and economic uncertainty and continuing confusion over diesel.

March is a crucial month for the new car market, as the plate change drives buyers into showrooms, says the SMMT, with new car demand often seen as a bellwether for consumer confidence and the health of the wider economy.

Demand fell in both the private and business sectors and almost every vehicle segment sufftered a decline, although sales of superminis increased by 4.3 per cent with the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa heading the sales charts.

Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) increased by 7.6 per cent with 25,302 registered, the biggest March volume on record. Diesel registrations continued on a downward trend, however, falling by 21.4 per cent.

But there is some good news for the beleaguered British motor industry.

The disappointing sales figures come as the SMMT launches a major new report showing that UK consumers could be among the first to benefit from self-driving vehicles with the UK rated number one in the world when it comes to the mass market potential of autonomous cars.

According to the report, the rollout of connected and autonomous technology could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade - with an overall £62 billion benefit to the economy by 2030.

But again, the SMMT stresses, the benefits will depend on an orderly Brexit and a deal that benefits the automotive industry.

The industry body highlights the fact that new driver assistance technology that mitigates driver error and prevents accidents is already available on almost eight in 10 new cars on the road. Last year, 1,848,394 new cars joining UK roads offered at least one self-activating safety system, either as standard or as an optional extra, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and overtaking sensors.

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