August car sales up 23 per cent – electric cars account for one in twelve sales

The UK new car market enjoyed a boost in August, as year-on-year demand rose 23.1 per cent, according to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 94,094 new cars were registered in the month as the market responded to regulatory changes, with cost-savvy buyers taking advantage of some compelling deals in what is always one of the year’s smallest months.

Demand was up across the board, with consumers and fleets boosting year-on-year registrations by 23.3 per cent and 19.7 per cent respectively, while the smaller business sector rose 166.4 per cent, equivalent to an uplift of around 1,500 units against August last year. Superminis remained the most popular buy, followed by small family and dual purpose cars, with the luxury saloon and city car segments recording the most notable growth, up 120.8 per cent and 39.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the UK’s growing range of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars continued to attract buyers, with a record one in 12 people choosing one. Demand surged by a substantial 88.7 per cent, with the sector accounting for 8.0 per cent of the market – its highest ever level – as billions of pounds of manufacturer investment help deliver more ultra-low and zero emission models to the market.

In the year to date, the overall market remains down by -4.2 per cent, in line with forecasts after a turbulent first eight months. However, demand remains at a high level with more than 1.5 million new cars featuring the latest in advanced safety, emissions and convenience technology joining British roads so far in 2018

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “It’s great to see such strong growth, particularly in the important electric vehicle market. However, given August is always a small month in new car registrations ahead of the important plate-change month of September, it would be wrong to view the market as booming.

“Indeed, this past month has seen some significant variances as regulatory changes have disrupted some supplies. In the long term, however, the new emissions certification test will give consumers renewed confidence in the performance of all vehicles, helping them choose the latest, cleanest technology that best suits their driving needs, whether that be petrol, diesel, hybrid or plug-in.”

NFDA responds

Commenting on the figures, Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, said: “The UK new car market performed well in terms of registrations in August as a result of the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test (WLTP) from 1 September which pushed consumers to bring forward purchases thanks to a number of attractive deals in the market throughout the month.”

Robinson continued, “UK retailers are pleased with August’s performance due to the pull forward effect on the market; however, we need to be aware that the market is likely to be affected over the remainder of the year and into 2019 by WLTP and the issues arising from its introduction including the impact on company car tax and Vehicle Excise Duty rates.

“It is encouraging to see that sales of alternative fuel vehicles saw an impressive growth, however, lack of clarity surrounding emissions and, in particular, diesel is still affecting consumer demand. NFDA strongly urges the government to use the Autumn Budget to clarify its position on diesel, vehicle emissions, and vehicle taxes.

“Going forward, we expect the market to remain distorted during September and the remainder of the year.”

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