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Fleets major factor in disappointing September for new car sales

Date: 05 October 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The UK new car market saw a drop in registrations during the crucial number plate changeover month of September.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), registrations were down by 4.4% year-on-year, with the total of 328,041 registrations the lowest seen since the current number plate schedule was introduced in 1999.

Fleet sales were especially sluggish, down by 5.8%, while private sales fell by only 1.1%.

Business sales, classed as to fleets with fewer than 25 vehicles, dropped by 31.9%, although these only make up 2.3% of the market.

According to the SMMT, the numbers are particularly disappointing given that the September sales figures in 2018 and 2019 were also sluggish, due to supply problems caused by the introduction of the WLTP vehicle testing regime.

It was yet another bad month for diesel car sales, down year-on-year by 38.4% to take just a 14.7% share of the overall market, while petrol car sales were also down by 20.9% for a 53.9% market share, although these figures can partly be explained by growth in hybrid powertrains.

It was a particularly strong month for petrol mild hybrids - a powertrain type being rapidly rolled out by manufacturers - with registrations up by 422.1% to take a 9.3% share of the overall market, while diesel mild hybrids were up by 66.4% to take a 4.1% overall market share.

Plug-in hybrids were up by 138.6% for a 3.8% market share, and conventional hybrids were up by 55.8% for an 8% market share.

As for pure electric cars, they were up by 184.3%, for a 6.7% market share.          

Reacting to the overall figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "During a torrid year, the automotive industry has demonstrated incredible resilience, but this is not a recovery. 

"Despite the boost of a new registration plate, new model introductions and attractive offers, this is still the poorest September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999. 

"Unless the pandemic is controlled and economy-wide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed."

The Vauxhall Corsa was the UK's bestselling new car in September with 10,553 registrations, ahead of the Ford Fiesta with 9,545.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was third with 8,085, ahead of the Volkswagen Polo with 7,417, and the Volkswagen Golf with 6,788.

Completing the top ten were the Nissan Qashqai (6,572), Ford Puma (6,341), Mini Hatch (8,213), Volvo XC40 (5,653), and Ford Focus (5,625).