05 Mar 2024

October new car sales beat pre-pandemic era but EV growth flatlines

New car sales were up 14.3% in October, according to the latest figures from the SMMT, with 153,529 cars sold in the month, although most demand came from large fleets, and EV sales are not growing at the rate seen in recent months.

The month’s sales were 7.3% above pre-pandemic levels, The 15th month of consecutive growth was driven almost entirely by large fleet registrations, which grew 28.8% to reach 87,479 units. Private demand was stable at 62,915 vehicles, a 0.3% increase, while the much smaller business sector saw registrations fall -15.2% to 3,135 units.

While diesel engine car sales were down 17.1% to 5,261 and made up 3.4% of the total, petrol cars were up 9.3% to 62,303, representing 40.6% of all cars sold. Electrified vehicles made up 37.6%. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) were up 24.6%, while plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) were up 60.5%. Battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake was up by 20.1% to. However, the overall BEV market share of 15.6%, was only just above October 2022’s 14.8%.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “With demand for new cars surpassing pre-pandemic levels in the month, the market is defying expectations and driving growth. As fleet uptake flourishes, particularly for EVs, sustained success depends on encouraging all consumers to invest in the latest zero emission vehicles. The Autumn Statement is a key opportunity for government to introduce incentives and facilitate infrastructure investment. Doing so would send a clear signal of support for drivers, reassuring them that now is the time to switch to electric.”

NFDA CEO Sue Robinson observed: “With October being an important bellwether following September’s plate change, it is positive to see the fifteenth month of continued growth for the automotive sector. As we approach the end of the year, it has been encouraging to see sustained growth for the sector despite external hardships including the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and the uncertainty surrounding governmental policies,”


She continued: “We look towards the upcoming Autumn Statement on 22 November for the government to provide clarity on policy in the sector, particularly regarding EVs. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see from the figures that EV numbers have increased despite the recent announcement by Rishi Sunak to push back the phasing out of ICE vehicles from 2030 to 2035.

“It is crucial that the Government helps continue this momentum by offering attractive price incentives and investing into more charging infrastructure to meet higher demands. Whilst our members have been active in supporting consumers’ needs, the onus is on the government to provide clear guidance and stimulate further momentum for the sector.”

Sue added: “NFDA’s recent Consumer Attitude Survey has highlighted that the lack of charging infrastructure does not instil confidence in prospective EV consumers with 57% of respondents alluding to this. Additionally, 67% of respondents indicated that price remains the key barrier to EV adoption.”

Mark Oakley, Director of AA Cars, noted: “September’s jump in sales – which came as drivers snapped up vehicles with the coveted, brand new 73 plates – was no flash in the pan. October data confirms that new car sales have risen for an incredible 15 months in a row, and demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of the automotive industry.

“The supply issues which previously plagued dealerships continue to ease as a wave of fresh models hits forecourts. The UK’s car production revved up by an impressive 39.8% in September compared to the same month last year, hitting its highest level of 2023 so far.