UK sees plunge in Sept car sales amid severe fuel crisis

Wednesday 06th October 2021 06:22 EDT

Sale of new cars in the UK took a deep plunge to the weakest September total for over two decades. However, the loss for petrol and diesel cars was a gain for electric vehicles. A total of 215,312 new cars were registered last month, the lowest September figure since 1998 as per the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). A year-on-year comparison revealed a 34 per cent downgrade in the number of vehicles sold.

The figures come at a time when the country grapples with severe fuel shortages. September is usually the second-busiest month of the year for the industry, however, with the global chip shortage holding back car production, sales were down almost 45 per cent compared with the 10-year average before the pandemic. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the headline figures were “desperately disappointing” and further evidence of the impact the shortage of semiconductors, especially from Asia, was having on the industry.

The biggest falls were in diesel and petrol car sales, down 77 per cent and 47 per cent respectively. However, there was a 49 per cent uptick in the sales for electric cars, with 32,721 registered last month. The Tesla Model 3 was the bestseller last month. Chief executive of AA Cars, James Fairclough said, “For those already thinking of going electric, the sight of electric vehicle drivers breezing past long queues at service stations during September’s fuel crisis may have been a clincher.”

Hawes, meanwhile, called on the government to step up investment in charging points. “The rocketing uptake of plug-in vehicles, especially battery electric cars, demonstrates the increasing demand for these new technologies. However, to meet our collective decarbonisation ambitions, we need to ensure all drivers can make the switch, not just those with private driveways, requiring a massive investment in public recharging infrastructure. Charge-point rollout must keep pace with the acceleration in plug-in vehicle registrations.”

The overall demand from private buyers fell 25 per cent but a bigger fall was recorded in large fleets, down 43 per cent year on year. New car sales so far this year are only 5.9 per cent better than 2020 figures, and down 29 per cent on the pre-pandemic decade-long average. Managing director of Close Brothers Motor Finance, Sean Kemple said it could be March next year before there was a real recovery in car sales.

“The ongoing chip shortage, compounded by rocketing manufacturing costs, continues to present challenges for dealers, manufacturers and consumers. Consumer demand is there, but choice is stifled. Buyers are turning to “nearly new” options, a growing trend where vehicles up to 12 months old are outstripping the price of their new counterparts,” he said.

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