2022 new car sales hit a 30-year low

Man signing documents when buying a new car.

2022 was a challenging year for many of us, and official figures have now revealed that it was also a difficult year for the UK’s new car market.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK recorded its worst year for car sales in 30 years in 2022.

Lowest level since 1992

Year-end figures from the SMMT reveal that 1.61 million cars were sold in 2022 – a 2% fall from 2021. Total sales were around 700,000 cars fewer than were sold in pre-Covid 2019, when registrations exceeded 2.3 million units.

The sale of 1.61 million cars is the lowest since 1992 and is a result of many different factors.

These include supply shortages of semiconductor chips from locked-down China and other components from elsewhere, including Ukraine, which paused the manufacturing and sale of new cars.

It’s not all bad news, however. The UK did reclaim its position as Europe’s second biggest market, overtaking France to secure the runner-up slot behind Germany.

Struggles with supplies

Jim Holder, editorial director of consumer magazine What Car? said: “Despite the strong performance for the second half of the year, 2022 finished behind 2021 and well below the pre-pandemic years, demonstrating just how detrimental the supply-side shortages and ongoing energy and cost of living crisis have been on the sector.”

Similarly, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Manufacturers have really struggled to be able to make the vehicles in sufficient quantities, primarily due to semiconductor shortages.

“Lockdowns in China have not helped, high logistics costs, more pressure on raw materials.”

He added: “The automotive market remains adrift of its pre-pandemic performance but could well buck wider economic trends by delivering significant growth in 2023.”

If you want to avoid a long wait for a new car, you may want to buy a used one instead. To help you make the right decision, read our guide to buying a used car.


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