UK car pool shrinks for first time since 1904

The number of cars on Britain's roads has seen the first peacetime decline since records began in 1904, according to figures published yesterday.

Although the last decade has seen a slight flattening of the growth curve, the UK's total car fleet – or "parc" – has registered annual growth continuously for the 64 years since the end of the Second World War.

But that all changed in 2009. The UK parc came in at 31,035,791 last year, a 0.7 per cent fall compared with 2008.

Experts point the finger at both the recession and the Government's scrappage scheme, which offered drivers a subsidy of £2,000 towards a new car if a vehicle more than 10 years' old was scrapped.

The car industry was hit hard by the global recession. At the worst point, in March last year, monthly registrations of new cars were down by a whopping 31 per cent from the previous year. And by February 2010 – despite eight consecutive months of rising figures – sales were still 1.3 per cent below the 2008 tally and 12.2 per cent lower than the 1999-2009 average.

Paul Everitt, the chief executive of the SMMT, said: "The recession is the most obvious factor impacting on the number of cars on the road."

But the scrappage scheme also played a key role. When the £400m, 10-month scheme came to an end last month, it had received 400,000 applicants – pushing 400,000 old cars on to the scrapheap that might otherwise simply have been sold on.

Although there would have been some trickle-down, and a proportion of cars would have been written off anyway, it is unlikely that all the vehicles would have been scrapped over such a short period of time, Mr Everitt said.

The combination of recession and scrappage added to the downwards pressure already being exerted by tighter enforcement of vehicle regulations. Thanks to changes to the rules on off-road notification and licensing in recent years, unlicensed vehicle details are scrubbed from the DVLA database, and abandoned cars collected and scrapped, more quickly and efficiently than in the past.

A knock-on effect of the scrappage scheme has been to improve the carbon footprint of Britain's cars. Over the entire parc, carbon emissions were down by an average of 1.7 per cent last year compared with 2008, according to the SMMT. In the past three years, the number of cars emitting less than 120 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre has shot up by more than 90 per cent to nearly 950,000.

On a more cosmetic note, silver was Britain's favourite colour of car for the second year running in 2009. Blue and black are closely behind, with red in fourth position in the rankings.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor