25 Feb 2024

August boost for new car market

New car sales jumped up 24.4% in August with 85,657 new vehicles registered, the latest figures from SMMT have shown, despite this normally being a slow month ahead of the September number plate change. However the overall market is still 7.5% below pre-pandemic levels.

37.8% of cars sold were electrified, with battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales up 72.3%. Plug-in hybrid sales were up by 70%, while hybrid sales were up 6.8%. Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “With the automotive industry beginning a second year of growth, recovery is underway with EVs energising the market. But with a new Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate due to come into force in less than 120 days, manufacturers still await the details. Businesses cannot plan on the basis of consultations, they need certainty. Now, more than ever, government must match action to ambition, ensuring there are the incentives and infrastructure in place to convince drivers to make the switch.”

John Wilmot, CEO, car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco, said: “A fifth of all registrations are now BEVs according to the latest SMMT figures, but this still feels too low with less than seven years before the new petrol and diesel vehicles ban comes into force. Price and charging infrastructure remain a thorn in the government’s side. The demand is there to switch to electric but the high price of many EVs and concerns over the coverage and reliability of the charging network remain barriers to early switching.”

Commenting on the potential impact of London’s ULEZ expansion on sales, NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson said: “The NFDA’s members have begun to see the impact of the legislation with increasing enquiries and growing interest about switching to electric from a non-ULEZ compliant car. Feedback from members is that footfall is steady, particularly in these zones, with prospective EV consumers keen to speak to their local retailers, who act as vital information hubs for their communities. “

AA Cars Director Mark Oakley added: “London’s ULEZ expansion officially came into effect in August, pushing more drivers toward eco-friendly cars to dodge added fees. Whether this spurs more EV purchases is to be seen, but so far sales are considerably higher compared to last year.

“Since January, UK production of hybrids and EVs has almost doubled compared to the same period last year. With more new models making their way onto forecourts, we are also seeing more nearly-new EVs entering the used car market.”

He concluded: “August’s uptick in new car sales isn’t the only bright piece of news, as the arrival of September’s new ’73’ registration plates could give dealers another boost. Some drivers wait for these changes to ensure their new car has the most up-to-date plates.”