UK new car registrations rise for the first time this year
UK new car registrations rose for the first time this year in July, by 11.3%, according to figures published on Wednesday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The industry organisation said 174,887 cars were registered in the month, as dealerships across the whole of the UK opened for their first full month of trading since February.
That represented a “significant improvement” on the same month last year, when declining business and consumer confidence undermined the market, it said.
What it described as “pent-up demand” and special offers led to a reprieve for the sector, but overall registrations were still down by 41.9%, or 598,054 units, for the year-to-date.
The SMMT said that, despite the increase in July, its full year outlook was still for a 30% decline in registrations, representing more than £20bn of lost sales.
Private demand saw the most significant growth, with a 20.4% increase in registrations, primarily a result of consumers “finally” being able to renew their cars after lockdown forced them to delay.
In addition, manufacturer incentives helped to attract customers to showrooms, with eight of the 10 major manufacturers providing “attractive” finance offers and flexible payment terms in a bid to head off consumer uncertainty.
Public appetite for zero and ultra low emission cars remained stable, the body said, with plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles taking a 9% share of registrations for the month, compared with 9.5% in June and up from 3.1% for 2019 overall.
At the same time, “supermini” and lower medium-sized cars were again the most popular segments, accounting for 59.1% of registrations, while dual purpose cars comprised 25.9% of vehicles registered.
Business car registrations showed “modest” growth, with fleet purchases increasing by 5.2%.
“July’s figures are positive, with a boost from demand pent up from earlier in the year and some attractive offers meaning there are some very good deals to be had,” said SMMT chief executive officer Mike Hawes.
“We must be cautious, however, as showrooms have only just fully reopened nationwide and there is still much uncertainty about the future.”
Hawes said that, by the end of September, the industry should have “a clearer picture” of whether or not it was a long-term trend.”
“Although this month’s figures provide hope, the market remains fragile in the face of possible future spikes and localised lockdowns as well as, sadly, probable job losses across the economy.
“The next few weeks will be crucial in showing whether or not we are on the road to recovery.”