UK car market falls 20.5%

The UK new car market fell by -20.5% in September, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

338,834 vehicles were registered in the month, down around 87,000 on the previous year as new testing requirements continue to affect supply and distort the market.

The impact was felt across the board, with registrations by private consumers, fleets and businesses all declining, by -20.1%, -22.4% and -6.3 per cent respectively. Registrations of petrol and diesel cars also fell, while hybrids and plug-in electrics fared better, up a modest 3.9 per cent.

Declines were seen across almost every vehicle segment, with MPVs and specialist sports cars showing the biggest falls, down -54.8% and -50.9%. Luxury saloons were the only segment to register growth, up +3.5 per cent.

September’s large decline follows an unusually high August and a turbulent first eight months of the year as the market responded to a raft of upheavals, from confusion over diesel policy to VED changes and, latterly, transition to the new WLTP emissions standards.

Year-to-date performance is currently -7.5 per cent behind 2017, reflecting these factors and a drop in business and consumer confidence. Over the coming months, however, some rebalancing is expected as an increasing range of new models are certified for sale and backlogs ease.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, ‘With the industry given barely a year to reapprove the entire European model line-up, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen bottlenecks and a squeeze on supply. These are exceptional circumstances with similar declines seen in other major European markets. The good news is that, as backlogs ease, consumers and businesses can look forward to a raft of exciting high-tech cars and a market keen to recover lost momentum.’