August car sales align with “quietest month” expectations

Published:  04 September, 2020

New car sales were down by just 5.8% in August, as the market returned to something like normal post-lockdown, according to the latest figures published today (Friday 4 September) by the SMMT.

87,226 new cars were sold during the month, compared with 92,573 in August 2019. vehicles were registered during what is traditionally the quietest month of the year in the market.

While registrations to private buyers held relatively steady, down by only 699 in the month, demand from businesses was lower, with 2,650 fewer new cars joining UK fleets, down 5.5% on August 2019.

Meanwhile, sales of plug-in hybrids increasing by 221.1%, although they still only accounted for one in 30 sales. Registrations of battery electric cars increased by 77.6% in the month, accounting for 6.4%. However, they make up just 4.9% of registrations year to date, up from 1.1% in the same period last year.

Overall, registrations remain down by 39.7% in the year to date, 600,000 behind the same period in 2019.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes observed: “The decline is disappointing, following some brief optimism in July. However, given August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months, it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone. With the all-important plate change month just around the corner, September is likely to provide a better barometer. As the nation takes steps to return to normality, protecting consumer confidence will be critical to driving a recovery.”

Sue Robinson, Director of the NFDA, added: “We expect the movement away from public transport towards privately owned vehicles to continue to benefit the sales of new and used cars. Additionally, the increase in disposable income for a number of consumers who have not been on holiday and were able to save during the lockdown can fuel demand over the coming weeks.”

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