Highest-ever September car registrations

The performance marks the highest September on record, while the total number of cars registered so far this year also grew to 2,150,495 units – up 2.6 per cent compared with the same period last year. It is only the second time that the two million mark has been passed in September since 2004.

Fleet registrations continued to drive growth, up 7.3 per cent, while registrations to private motorists experienced a small decline, down -1.7 per cent to 223,844 units in the month. Alternative fuel vehicles continued to grow consistently, up 32.6 per cent compared to 2015.

Commenting on the SMMT figures, Sue Robinson, director of National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers across the UK, said: “September has been a positive month for new car sales as a result of the 66-plate change. The market remains strong.”

Robinson continued: “Whilst dealers’ expectations appeared to be split at the beginning of the month, more recent comments from members were fairly optimistic, in line with today’s figures.

“With near record numbers of new vehicles on the road aftersales, undertaken by the franchised dealers, will drive growth in the sector.

“The plate change has certainly helped boost consumers’ confidence and we should not be surprised to see some signs of stabilisation in the next months. The majority of dealers expect sales for the last quarter to be similar to last year’s record performance.”

Automotive sector ‘resilient, post-Brexit’

Further comment on the SMMT figures comes from Chris Bosworth, Director of Strategy at Close Brothers Motor Finance. He says: “The new registration figures from the SMMT – the first since new 66-plated car registrations came into force – indicate that the automotive sector remains relatively resilient following Brexit with a second consecutive month of growth following a flat July. The increase in overall registrations has been helped by a slight rebound in diesel vehicles as well as the growth in demand of alternatively-fuelled vehicles and fleet markets which both showed significant year-on-year and monthly figures for September.

“Nevertheless, it is important to analyse the figures, rather than just looking at the headlines. As we have seen for the last six months, private sales have continued to fall causing the growth trajectory of new car registrations to steadily drop. Many consumers are now starting to gravitate to well-priced ‘nearly-new’ stock as manufacturers reduce the number of subsidised finance offers available. With the business market likely to be impacted by the outcome of the current HMRC review into company cars, the private sales market will become increasingly important to overall registrations in the UK.

“We have also recently seen several foreign-based manufacturers announce the potential move of their European headquarters from the UK, meaning the make-up of the UK car industry in the long term is far from certain. Looking forward, new innovations – such as safety improvements, alternative fuels and models – released by manufacturers will be the main drivers in encouraging people to continue to purchase new cars over used vehicles in the coming months.”

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