Fleets driving uptick in rising sales

While the latest data around rising car sales makes positive reading, industry experts believe fleet purchases are skewing the figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trader has reported a 24% rise in new car sales during August.

However, Ian Plummer, commercial director, Auto Trader, said: “The headline figures are positive, but with sales growth being fuelled almost exclusively by various fleet channels in recent months, a quick look under the bonnet reveals the new car market has reached a pivot point. After years of heavily constrained new car supply struggling to keep pace with consumer appetite, for the first time since the pandemic we’re seeing production exceed natural demand, as evident in flattening retail sales numbers.

“It’s good news for new car buyers though. Not only have lead times dropped significantly, but the market’s currently awash with enticing offers, particularly for new EV models, from manufacturers hoping to stimulate demand for the September plate change. And there’s signs it’s working as we saw a notable rise in new car activity across our platforms over the closing weeks of August.

“The significant uptick in electric registrations is promising, but again, it continues to be propped up fleet channels, as people take advantage of business-related tax benefits that make them more affordable. Without those advantages, the current £50,000 median price-tag for a brand-new electric car is far beyond most retail car buyers’ budgets. But with the growing array of deposit contributions and 0% APR deals on offer that can now help bridge the affordability gap for private buyers too, we may well see a rise in vital private demand for EVs, which will be much needed if we’re to achieve the government’s 2030 ambitions.”

Meanwhile, What Car? editor Steve Huntingford, said: Many private motorists appear to be putting off new car purchases due to the current economic conditions, with fleet buyers accounting for an increasing proportion of registrations. This is particularly true for electric cars, with our website traffic showing that the popularity of these models is on the wane among private buyers due to concerns around the cost and availability of charging.”