UK car registrations dropped by a modest 2.9% in October year on year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, following a tumultuous few months for the car industry.

In August, sales rose by 23.1% as manufacturers tried to shift as much stock as possible before new WLTP emissions regulations were introduced in September. 

Then, in September – the second most important month for car sales after March due to the numberplate change – registrations fell by a massive 20% because of those regulatory changes, which meant that many car makers had not managed to test all of their models under the new rules.

Now, the market appears to be balancing out, though the 2.9% fall is still being blamed on the same issue. The SMMT said “model changes and backlogs at test houses conducting tough new WLTP emissions certification continued to cause shortages across some brands”.

While registrations are down 2.9% to 135,599 units in October, year-to-date, the car sector is down 7.2% compared with the same period last year.

The SMMT said that “some pull-back is hoped for during the remainder of the year as current supply issues ease, enabling manufacturers to cater for pent-up demand on certain models”.

The demise of diesel-powered cars continued, with registrations falling 21.3% in October, while those of petrol models increased by 7.1%.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles, including electric and plug-in hybrid models, grew by 30.7%, with 10,597 units sold.

However, this sector is expected to be hit imminently, following the government’s announcement that it will reduce its plug-in grant for electric cars and withdraw it completely for plug-in hybrids. The SMMT said that due to lead times, the full impact of that move may not be seen for several months.



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