UK new car sales down 20.6% in May

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According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), car registrations in the UK fell 20.6% in May to 124,394 units.

It was the second weakest May since 1992, after the pandemic-hit market in 2020. The UK car market was 32.3% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019, despite strong order books.

While private consumer purchases fell 10.3%, their market share rose 6.1 percentage points year-over-year to 53.2%, in part as manufacturers strive to fulfill deliveries – especially electric vehicles – to private buyers.

In May, registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rose 17.7%, representing one in eight new cars that hit the road last month. Plug-in hybrids were down 25.5%, while hybrids were up 12.0%, meaning electric vehicle shipments accounted for three in ten new cars.

The supply chain challenge contributed to an overall year-to-date market decline of 8.7%, which equates to 62,724 fewer units. This is 40.6% lower than the five-year average recorded from January to May as the new car market continues to struggle to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of SMMT, said: “In yet another challenging month for the new auto market, the industry continues to fight ongoing global parts shortages, with the emergence of battery electric vehicles being one of the few bright spots. To continue and drive a robust mass-market for these vehicles, we need to ensure that every buyer has the confidence to go electric, which will require an acceleration of the roll-out of accessible charging infrastructure to handle the increasing number of plug-in vehicles , as well as incentives to buy new, cleaner and greener cars.

“Living on Net Zero means we are renewing the vehicles on our roads at a rapid pace, but with rising inflation and pressure on household incomes, this will become increasingly difficult unless businesses and private buyers have the confidence and encouragement to do so. to do.”

Chris Knight, Automotive Partner at KPMG UK, noted that car orders remain strong, but the outlook has been clouded by rising prices in the economy in general: “Demand for new cars remains robust, with long wait times for many models , but rising cost of living raises questions for the UK car industry for the rest of 2022. How much consumers put off buying a vehicle altogether is an important question, but so is those looking to buy cheaper new cars in a market where such models in less supply and long waiting times.

“Some automakers still believe that lower-margin and lower-margin cars are a less attractive proposition at the moment, but others may increasingly see a growing market gap that needs to be seized. This landscape could give rise to new entrants, such as some Chinese automakers, poised to capture market share in the lower price segments of the booming UK electric car market.”

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