August sees new car market grow by nearly a quarter

Woman in dealership receiving car keys from salesman
Looking to buy a new car? For the first time since the pandemic, the UK is seeing production exceed demand – so it’s an exciting time for our new car market.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), new car sales increased by 24.4% in August.

This figure is particularly surprising given the time of the year, as August tends to be a quieter month due to the new number plate release in September each year.

Some 85,657 new cars were registered last month, compared with 68,858 in August 2022.

Despite this improved performance, the market remained 7.5% below pre-pandemic levels, with 92,573 registrations in August 2019.

Increasing demand for electric vehicles

With electric vehicles (EVs) becoming increasingly popular in the UK, it’s no wonder they account for nearly two out of five new cars hitting the roads last month.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “With the automotive industry beginning a second year of growth, recovery is underway with EVs energising the market.

“But with a new zero-emission vehicle mandate due to come into force in less than 120 days, manufacturers still await the details.”

The mandate will require manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of zero-emission vehicles.

The proposed levels for new cars are 22% by 2024, 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

“Businesses cannot plan on the basis of consultations, they need certainty,” he said.

“And now, more than ever, Government must match action to ambition, ensuring there are the incentives and infrastructure in place to convince drivers to make the switch.”

Rising number of registrations for fleets

In the public sector, registrations of new cars for fleets were up 58.4% year-on-year last month. Demand from private buyers, on the other hand, was down 8.1%.

Ian Plummer, commercial director at online vehicle marketplace Auto Trader, said: “The headline figures are positive, but there’s a clear divide in the market.

“The growth is being almost exclusively fuelled by strongly rising fleet sales, but the proportion of retail sales is softening, underlining the pressure on consumers.

“After years of heavily constrained new car supply struggling to keep pace with consumer appetite, for the first time since the pandemic, we’re seeing production exceed demand, which is shown by the flattening retail sales numbers.”

If you’re buying a new car this year, see which 73-plate combinations are banned from public use.