LONDON -- UK new-car sales fell for the fifth month in a row in August, the longest run of declines since 2011, as uncertainty over Brexit and possible levies on diesel cars hit Europe's second-biggest market after Germany.
Registrations dropped 6.4 percent to 76,433 vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, with demand among businesses and private buyers both slumping.
Diesel registrations fell by 21 percent, while gasoline sales rose 3.8 percent in a further sign that uncertainty over possible government-imposed penalties on the most polluting vehicles is putting off buyers. This gives diesel a 39.6 percent market share compared with 55.2 percent for gasoline.
Despite the fall in sales, SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said he expected demand to remain strong in September, which accounts for some 15 percent of annual sales, as it is one of only two occasions each year when a new license plate series is introduced to indicate the age of a vehicle.
"With the new 67-plate now available and a range of new models in showrooms, we anticipate the continuation of what are historically high levels of demand," Hawes said.
Several carmakers, representing around three-quarters of the market, have launched trade-in and scrappage schemes in recent weeks which should also help to support the September selling month.
Ford falls, VW gains
UK market leader Ford saw registrations fall by 21 percent in August, while sales at second-placed Volkswagen brand grew 22 percent. Third-placed Vauxhall's volume slipped 22 percent, while sales at No. 4 Audi grew 1.7 percent. Mercedes-Benz completed the top five with a rise of 1.8 percent.
• View sales by brand for August and eight months by clicking here.
Through August, total market sales fell 2.4 percent to 1.64 million. The SMMT expects full-year UK registrations to end the year down nearly 4 percent at 2.59 million units from 2.69 million in 2016, which was a record high.
The UK's drop in sales was in contrast to rises in other key European markets last month. Registrations in Germany rose 3.5 percent, while French sales were up 9.4 percent. In Italy, sales jumped by 16 percent and in Spain registrations rose 13 percent.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report