New figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations fell 5.8% year on year in August, which is traditionally the quietest month for sales.
A total of 87,226 new cars were registered last month – more than 5000 less than the 92,573 recorded in August 2019 – in the run-up to the new 70-plate being introduced at the beginning of September.
Private car sales were down by just 699 units, at 39,833, but fleet sales recorded a more substantial decline, with a 2650-unit shortfall bringing the total to 48,593 for August.
The SMMT also recorded declines across all model segments except superminis, with demand for specialist sports cars falling 41.9% and for city cars falling 64.2%.
On the other hand, it was a bumper month for electrified vehicle sales, with plug-in hybrid demand soaring by 221.1% and registrations of battery-electric vehicles increasing by 77.6%. The SMMT adds, however, that PHEVs still accounted for only one in 30 sales, and EVs made up just 6.4% of the market in August.
However, battery-electric vehicles now account for 4.9% of new car registrations year-to-date, compared with 3.8% at the end of August 2019.
There were no significant changes to the top 10 best-selling models year-to-date list, with the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus retaining the first and second positions respectively, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa at number three and the Volkswagen Golf in the fourth spot.
The SMMT said: “In the past five years, the range of zero-emission-capable car models available in the UK has trebled to more than 80, with some 200 more in the pipeline over the coming years.
“For customer demand to keep pace, at least 1.7 million new on-street charging points will need to be built by 2030, along with a long-term commitment from government to provide incentives for EV purchases.”
SMMT boss Mike Hawes called the decline “disappointing” in light of July’s promising uptick but added that “August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months,” so “it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone”.