The number of diesel cars on UK roads fell for the first time in at least 25 years, government data has revealed.
In 2019 there were 12.29 million diesels on the roads, compared with 12.4 million in 2018.
Diesel registrations have risen sharply over the past few decades and when the DfT began recording data in this way in 1994 there were just 1.6 million licensed.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 583,488 new diesel cars were sold in 2019, down 21.8% on the 746,332 sold in 2018.
However, diesel-powered vans – which make up 96% of the fleet – increased in number last year, up from 3.86 million to 3.97 million.
The data also shows how fossil fuel-powered cars still dominate the marketplace. In 2018 there were 18.8 million petrol cars compared to just 90,000 pure battery-electric cars. There were also 145,000 plug-in hybrids and 514,000 ‘mild’ hybrids.
Commenting on the data, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These figures hint at a motoring milestone – the possibility that we have hit or even passed “peak diesel” – due to the collapse in sales of new diesel cars together with the scrapping of older diesels, which have either come to the end of their useful lives or whose owners fear increasing restrictions on their use because of air quality concerns.
In March, the SMMT warned that the coronavirus pandemic could result in 200,000 fewer cars being built in the UK this year.
With all car manufacturing plants now on shutdown as the country focuses efforts on overcoming the crisis, an initial assessment commissioned by SMMT of the potential impact of these shutdowns suggests a loss of around 200,000 units by the end of 2020, just under 1.1 million, and a fall of 18% on 2019.
The trade body has warned that the impact could be far more severe if the lockdown lasts longer than a few weeks and goes into the summer. They also called on the government to release funding to support them through these difficult times.
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