Car sales are on the up. Jaguar sold twice as many XF saloons during March as it did a year ago, while Hyundai notched up its best month yet, selling over 15,000 cars for the first time. Ford, meanwhile, remained the UK’s most popular make. During March, one in five cars sold wore a Ford badge while the Fiesta (pictured) proved the top seller.

Despite this, the number of cars on the UK’s roads has fallen for the first time since the Second World War. Figures just released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that almost 220,000 vehicles have disappeared from the roads over the past year.

There are now just over 31 million vehicles on UK roads, an 0.7% drop compared to this point in 2009. That’s the first fall since 1946 – the year after the Second World War ended. The recession has had an influence. But experts also point to the Government’s scrappage scheme, which has just ended.

Under this, the Government put £300m into offering £2000 discounts to buyers who traded cars at least 10 years old for new ones. A condition of this scheme was that all the old vehicles had to be scrapped. Usually, cars that dealers take in part-exchange are re-sold wherever possible and find new owners. A third of a million cars were purchased under the scheme, which began last May.

Another factor is the government’s increasing successful crackdown on untaxed, unregistered vehicles, many of which have been removed from the roads and crushed. Industry estimates are that as many as one vehicle in 20 is untaxed, unregistered or not insured – and this action has cut the number of such ‘rogue’ vehicles.

Back in 1946, fewer cars were on sale because of raw material shortages and because the changeover from producing military equipment was not complete.

The SMMT’s just-published figures also showed that the average car produced 1.7% less CO2 emissions. This is partly due to the growing number of ‘greener’ cars on the road.

Stephen Jury


April 8, 2010