Volkswagen car sales drop 20 per cent in UK as diesel emissions scandal takes a toll

LONDON – Volkswagen car sales in Britain dropped by almost 20 per cent in November compared with a year earlier as the company’s emissions testing scandal took a toll.

There were 12,958 Volkswagen registrations last month in the U.K., compared to 16,196 in November 2014, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said Friday.

Because overall auto sales rose by 3.8 per cent, that saw Volkswagen’s market share in Britain drop to 7.2 per cent from 9.4 per cent a year earlier. Other Volkswagen Group marques, such as SEAT, Skoda and Porsche, also suffered drops in U.K. sales.

The drop in sales was similar to the 25 per cent slump reported in the United States, the epicenter of Volkswagen’s scandal. The company, which rivals Toyota for the title as world’s largest car maker, admitted in September that its diesel vehicles had cheated on U.S. emissions tests.

The sales numbers for November are closely watched in part because of a lag of several weeks between the time a car is purchased and registered. The month’s figures for the wider European Union are due on Dec. 15.

Volkswagen says it had installed the cheating software in 11 million cars globally.

It admitted that 482,000 two-litre and 85,000 six-cylinder diesel vehicles in the U.S. contained the software. In Europe, about 8.5 million cars have it, though there is no confirmation the cars cheated on European tests.

Volkswagen has set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to cover the cost of fixing the cars, but experts say the scandal will cost the company much more, in part through lost sales.