The UK new car market recorded a third month of growth in October, with registrations rising by more than a quarter (26.4%) to 134,344 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The SMMT said that fulfilment of strong order books helped deliver the bounce-back, although the increase follows a particularly disappointing October 2021 when deliveries fell by 24.6%. In the year to date, the market is down 5.6% on the same period in 2021 and still a third below pre-Covid levels.
Growth in October was driven primarily by large fleet registrations, which grew 47.4% to 67,911 units, while those by private buyers rose 7.4% to 62,714. Smaller businesses recorded a 108.6% increase although, at 3,719 units, this is a small segment of the market.
Zero emission capable car deliveries continued to grow in volume, with battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations increasing by 23.4% to 19,933 and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) by 6.2% to 8,899. However, BEV uptake grew by less than the overall market for the first time since the pandemic, meaning October is the first month to see BEV market share fall year on year since May 2021, primarily attributable to supply challenges, the SMMT said.
Deliveries of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), meanwhile, rocketed 81.7% to account for more than one in 10 new cars, as supply was prioritised for a raft of popular new models. Overall, electrified vehicles accounted for one in three registrations, while more than a fifth (21.5%) came with a plug.
Ongoing supply chain shortages, surging inflation and a growing cost of living crisis have led to a -2.2% downward revision of the SMMT’s market outlook for the year, with 1.566 million registrations now anticipated. This puts 2022 on course to be the market’s toughest year since 1982.
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Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “A strong October is hugely welcome, albeit in comparison with a weak 2021, but it is still not enough to offset the damage done by the pandemic and subsequent supply shortages. Next year’s outlook shows recovery is possible and EV growth looks set to continue but, to achieve our shared net zero goals, that growth must accelerate and consumers given every reason to invest. This means giving them the economic stability and confidence to make the switch, safe in the knowledge they will be able to charge – and charge affordably – when needed. The models are there, with more still to come; so must the public chargepoints.”
GlobalData forecasts that the UK car market this year will struggle to reach 1.6 million, with just 1.7 million new car sales projected for 2023. At that level, 2023’s UK new car market would still be around a quarter down on 2019’s 2.3 million sales.