RAC Foundation News - July 2019

If there is one thing Great Britain is very good at it is producing official statistics. The data that is collected, and the analysis that follows subsequently, is the envy of the world. It helps paint a detailed picture – though through the use of tables and graphs rather than vivid photographs in technicolour – of the way we live. Unsurprisingly Department for Transport stats live up to the standard.

Just published was the latest quarterly vehicle licensing information, telling us what happened in January, February and March of this year. It revealed that the most popular new car in Q1 was the Ford Fiesta (23,000 vehicles registered) followed by the Vauxhall Corsa (17,000) and the VW Golf ( also 17,000).

By manufacturer the top five makes over the period were Ford (10% of registrations), VW and Vauxhall (8% each), and Mercedes-Benz and BMW (7% apiece).

Overall, 857,000 vehicles were registered for the first time in Britain during the quarter meaning that by the end of March there was a total of 38.4 million vehicles licensed in the country, a rise of 1.4% on the total for the end of March last year.

Following the recent trend, the registration of diesel cars was down markedly year on year, showing a 20% decline. At 188,000 this was the lowest quarterly volume of diesel car registrations since 2003.

As an organisation heavily reliant on official data, the RAC Foundation has repeatedly lobbied against any potential dilution of official statistics or cutbacks in their scope. Having a long-running, consistent timeseries of data is the essential starting point for understanding our transport needs.

‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics’; so goes the old adage. This is rather unfair. It is rarely the numbers that are wrong, rather their use and interpretation. Without numbers all we would have is guesswork, rumour and hunch, and these wouldn’t be good things to base policy decisions on.

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