UK car sales slide in 2018 before Brexit

File: Car manufacturing plant

File: Sales sank 6.8 percent to 2.367 million vehicles after a 5.7-percent drop in 2017, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement. 

LONDON - New UK car sales slid in 2018 on weak demand for diesel vehicles, and will fall further this year on poor consumer confidence and Brexit, an industry body said Monday.

Sales sank 6.8 percent to 2.367 million vehicles after a 5.7-percent drop in 2017, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement. 

Consumers continued to ditch diesel cars for automobiles seen as more environmentally-friendly.

With Brexit on the horizon in March, the SMMT forecast that the market faces another 2.0-percent decline this year.

"The challenges before us are something of a perfect storm," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

"It's causing considerable worry and agitation across boardrooms both in the UK and abroad."

He added it would be "unfair" to attribute the entire sales drop to Brexit fears but cautioned that falling consumer confidence had curbed people's desire to make a "big ticket purchase".

Some diesel vehicle owners are switching to petrol or alternatively fuelled vehicles, but most are keeping their existing cars owing to uncertainty over how they will be taxed, the SMMT noted.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29.

Since Britain voted to leave the bloc in June 2016, a drop in sterling -- making imported goods more expensive -- has fuelled inflation and put a major squeeze on household budgets.