New emissions rules lead to cut-price cars

Savings of more than a third on new cars as new emissions rules force a mass sell-off

Craig Thomas Andrew Goodwin
Nov 2, 2021

New car prices have been cut by more than £10,000 in a one-off, everything-must-go sale, as new emission regulations were introduced on September 1 2018.

Savings of more than a third are available on some vehicles, which could only be sold as new cars until the end of last month.
Instead of being forced to dispose of the cars, dealerships pre-registered these vehicles, making themselves the first owners.

This is because there are no rules against selling used models. Many of these cars will now come with a healthy discount, despite being in as-new condition, often with just a handful of miles on the clock.

Cars from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Nissan are among those available with the biggest savings, which are due to a new mandatory test that’s used to calculate fuel-efficiency(mpg) figures, as well as emissions levels.

Some of these pre-registered cars, such as the Jeep Cherokee, are available with a 35% saving of more than £12,000; you’ll save more than a quarter on a Nissan Qashqai and 23% on a BMW 1 Series.

Since September 1 2018, every type of new car must have gone through the new laboratory test, known as the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).

WLTP lasts longer and involves a greater amount of high speed driving than the old test, which was notorious for producing unrealistic official mpg figures. It’s meant to be more representative of real-world driving, so a car tested under the new regime is likely to have a significantly worse fuel economy figure than an identical model that went through the old test.

WLTP is also being used to ensure that cars meet limits on toxic emissions, and these are also generally recorded as higher than under the previous test. This means that many manufacturers are having to modify the design of their cars. In other cases, manufacturers have been unable to test some cars as laboratories have no spare capacity.

It’s the unmodified or untested ones, which are already built, that had to be sold before the end of August. There are currently no plans to treat these older vehicles differently in terms of tax or additional charges, and they will continue to meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6.

Instead of trying to shift all of their cars by the end of the month, some manufacturers pre-registered them, fitting them with number plates and recording dealerships as the first owner. They can still be sold as used cars, even though they only have delivery mileage.

Increased supply of these cars is likely to mean that discounts continue into the autumn of 2018.

Discounts on pre-registered cars

Most manufacturers have been monitoring the situation for some time and have quietly put plans in place to avoid having huge levels of stock in place.

Philip Nothard of Cox Automotive monitors the used market on a continuous basis and has been examining the responses of carmakers to the introduction of WLTP. He said: "You'll find that there has already been a lot of focus on tactical registrations already in previous months.

"Some manufacturers have started doing some early demonstrator replacements and fleet deals fairly early on, so it's not been left until August. There’s been an increase in pre-registration activity in August, but there seems to be a feeling that some of its already happened in May, June and July already. I think manufacturers – some of them, not all – have been ahead of the game."

New and pre-registered car savings


BuyaCar price


List price

Jeep Cherokee Limited M-Jet


£12,220 (35%)



Ford Focus Zetec Edition 1.0 125


£5,640 (27%)



Toyota Aygo x-Play 5dr


£2,940 (27%)



Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta 1.5 dCi


£6,600 (26%)



BMW 116d Sport


£5,615 (23%)



Vauxhall Grandland X SE 1.2


£5,135 (22%)



Audi A5 S Line 1.4 TFSI S Tronic


£6,995 (20%)



Citroen C3 Aircross Feel 1.2 PureTech


£3,056 (19%)




Could the regulations affect the supply of new cars?

Nothard has also found that the supply of new cars could be problematic for some manufacturers, as they were not able to get some models tested under the new regime in time for September.

“The main concern at the minute is stock availability," he said. "There are a lot of vehicles coming through the WLTP testing procedures and the reports are that those testing procedures are creating a bit of a backlog. I think it's holding up supply and therefore some of the dealers have orders but they can't get the stock to come through."

Loophole for non-WLTP-tested cars

Manufacturers have been given a bit of leeway to help them make the transition, with a derogation (allowance) of non-compliant cars comprising up to 10% of their total sales last year.

So, for example, if a brand sold 100,000 cars in the UK in 2017, they will be allowed to sell up to 10,000 cars that haven’t been tested under WLTP rules after 1 September.

However, this still wasn't enough for some brands, who needed to sell or pre-register cars before the end of August.

What are the manufacturers saying?

We approached all major manufacturers to ask whether they would be able to meet the new rules and ensure that they didn’t have excess stock that they could not sell after September.

Most claimed that they would not be left with a mountain of non-compliant cars, but did not reveal how many cars they had pre-registered ahead of the deadline.

Toyota said that it would have 1,844 non-compliant cars (which is just under 2% of its 2017 total sales of 101,692 cars).

A BMW spokesperson said: "Both BMW and Mini are fully compliant with WLTP already. We commenced the process very early and so we are not lumbered with large amounts of stock."

Ford, the best-selling brand in the UK at the time, said that it is under the derogation figure "by a significant margin", while Volkswagen said: "We will be able to comply with the WLTP derogation figures, and are carefully managing our stock levels to meet the demands of the market and our customers."

Suzuki said: "If non-WLTP-complaint stock exceeds the derogation limit on September 1, we have a contingency plan already in progress, which includes the option to individually re-test relevant vehicles."

However, Land Rover was more secretive. "Regarding our position on WLTP derogation figures, this remains confidential at the current time," said a company spokesperson.


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