The UK new car market grew by 14.3% year-on-year last month, making it the strongest October for sales since 2018.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a total of 153,529 cars were registered.

Continuing a regular trend from recent months, fleet registrations were the main factor behind the growth, as these increased by 28.8%, taking 57% of the overall market.

Private registrations were up by 0.3%, for a 41% market share, while business registrations – classed as those to firms with fewer than 25 vehicles – fell by 15.2%, taking 2% of the market.

In terms of fuel mix, pure EV registrations rose by 20.1% year-on-year in October, accounting for 15.6% of the market.

Plug-in hybrids shot up by 60.5%, taking a 9.3% market share, while conventional hybrids were up by 24.6%, taking 12.7% of the market.

Mild hybrid petrol registrations were up by 5.5% for a 14.4% market share, while mild hybrid diesels were up by 10% for a 3.9% share.

Pure petrol car registrations were up by 9.3%, taking 40.8% of the market, while diesel registrations were down by 17.1% for a 3.4% share. 

Overall, the new car market is now up by 19.6% for the first ten months of the year, making this the strongest since 2019. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “With demand for new cars surpassing pre-pandemic levels in the month, the market is defying expectations and driving growth. 

“As fleet uptake flourishes, particularly for EVs, sustained success depends on encouraging all consumers to invest in the latest zero emission vehicles.

“The Autumn Statement is a key opportunity for government to introduce incentives and facilitate infrastructure investment. Doing so would send a clear signal of support for drivers, reassuring them that now is the time to switch to electric.”

The strong recent sales figures have prompted the SMMT to upwardly revise its market projection for 2023, by 2.1% since the previous projection from July, to 1.886 million units. However, it has downgraded its pure EV sales forecast, by 1.7% to 324,000 units.

The SMMT has also upwardly revised its 2024 overall market projection, by 1% to 1.970 million, but downgraded its pure EV market share projection for next year to 22.3%, despite still predicting a 35.5% increase in registrations compared with this year.

Reacting to the October registration figures, Lex Autolease managing director Nick Williams said: “It’s encouraging to see EV adoption levels and new vehicle registration figures continuing a positive trajectory. This is a real boost to the UK’s journey to net zero, with the ZEV mandate enabling us all to set our sights firmly on the 2035 deadline.

“Drivers and fleet managers will hope to see the continued commitment of the UK Government to development of the UK’s charging infrastructure, the maintenance of financial incentives to choose an EV, and policies to support vehicle manufacturers invest in innovation to drive adoption levels.”