Car sales stutter amidst supply shortages

New UK car registrations fell 20.6% to 124,394 units in the second weakest May since 1992 as supply shortages continue to hamper new purchases and the fulfilment of existing orders.

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the decline demonstrates the impact of continued global supply chain disruptions, with the market 32.3% below the 2019 pre-pandemic level despite strong order books.

While private consumer purchases fell 10.3%, their market share increased year-on-year by 6.1 per cent to 53.2%, in part due to manufacturers striving to fulfil deliveries – particularly of electric vehicles – to private buyers, with the commensurate effect on the business and large fleet sectors, which now comprise 46.8% of the market.

However, May saw registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rise by 17.7%, representing one in eight new cars joining the road last month. Plug-in hybrids declined -25.5%, while hybrids were up 12%, meaning deliveries of electrified vehicles accounted for three in 10 new cars.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “In yet another challenging month for the new car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots. To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric. This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars.

“Delivering on net zero means renewing the vehicles on our roads at pace but, with rising inflation and a squeeze on household incomes, this will be increasingly difficult unless businesses and private buyers have the confidence and encouragement to do so.”