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Another flat month for consumer new car sales in October

Private new car sales continued to struggle in October, a scant 0.3% up on the same month last year, while fleet sales continued to perform strongly.

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Private new car sales continued to struggle in October, a scant 0.3% up on the same month last year, according to latest data published this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

As cost-of-living pressures and high interest rates continue to squeeze household budgets, consumer new car spending is failing to keep pace with the growth in fleet purchasing. While private new car sales were flat in October, fleet registrations were up by 29%, meaning that the overall new car market was up by 14% on the same month last year.

October is a month that has fluctuated significantly over the last five years, and this year’s overall result is the best since 2017 – well before the Covid-19 pandemic. And that’s despite zero growth in private new car sales, which shows just how strong fleet sales were last month.

New car registrations by buyer type – October

BuyerOctober 2023October 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Source: SMMT

Year to date

BuyerYTD 2023YTD 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Source: SMMT

Consumers still avoiding new EVs

On the surface, it looked like a good month for electric cars, with sales up by 20% over the same month last year. But market share of less than 16% is lower than the year-to-date average, causing headaches for the car industry. Starting in January, they have to sell at least 22% EVs, which means a 40% increase on October’s market share.

The SMMT claims that less than 25% of EV sales this year have been to private buyers. Some quick maths based on the published numbers suggests that this equates to only about 9% of consumers who have bought EVs this year. For fleet buyers, it’s a very different story. Based on fleet customers making up at least 75% of EV sales, that puts EV market share at more than 23% for fleets – already exceeding next year’s targets.

So if car companies want to hit their mandated EV targets for 2024, it’s clear that they need to convince a lot more consumers to switch to electric power.

In the meantime, plug-in hybrid sales continue to creep upwards, a trend that has been developing over the last few months. Whether or not this is from people moving away from diesel (large SUVs are a good example, where there are few EV options but quite a few plug-in hybrids), or from people who are hesitant about going all-in on a switch from petrol to electric power, remains to be seen.

New car registrations by fuel type – October

FuelOctober 2023October 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Plug-in hybrid14,2858,90060.5%9.3%6.6%

*includes mild hybrids
Source: SMMT

New car registrations by fuel type – Year to date

FuelYTD 2023YTD 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Plug-in hybrid113,27882,86136.7%7.1%6.2%

*includes mild hybrids
Source: SMMT

Good month, bad month

Despite overall market growth of more than 14%, it wasn’t champagne and caviars for car companies in October. Some brands saw significantly less growth than the market average, while others saw sales fall dramatically.

In terms of good news, it was a strong month for Cupra, Genesis, GWM Ora, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Maserati, MG, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Smart, Suzuki, Tesla and Volvo. All of these brands overachieved against the overall market by at least 10%.

Not so happy, however, were Abarth, Bentley, Citroën, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, SsangYong, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen. All of these companies underachieved against the overall market by at least 10% (which means growth of less than 4% and, in some cases, significant falls)

That means that the following brands were more or less where we expected them to be in October: Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Mini and Vauxhall.

In absolute terms, Tesla had the largest growth. This October, it registered nearly 2,700 new cars. Last October, it registered 11. No, that’s not a typo.

At the other end of the scale, Fiat registered nearly 1,500 fewer cars this October than it did last year – a fall of 57% in a market that was up 14%.

In overall sales, Volkswagen continued to lead the market, just ahead of sister brand Audi. Ford placed third, ahead of BMW and Vauxhall.


RankBrandRegistrationsMarket share

Source: SMMT

Year to date

RankBrandRegistrationsMarket share

Source: SMMT

Ford Puma locks in sales crown with another month on top

With just two months to run until the end of 2023, the Ford Puma has opened up a commanding lead at the top of the sales charts. Last year’s (and last month’s) best-selling new car, the Nissan Qashqai, had a slow month in October and didn’t even make the top ten.

In fact, the race for second place is very close between the Qashqai and the Vauxhall Corsa, while the Kia Sportage overtook the Tesla Model Y for fourth place. And on a sad final note, the now-discontinued Ford Fiesta has finally slipped off the bottom of the top ten sales charts forever, with the Audi A3 now in tenth place after a strong performance in October.

We’ll have our usual monthly analysis of the top ten tomorrow.


1Ford Puma4,824
2Mini hatch3,779
3Vauxhall Corsa3,464
4Volkswagen Polo3,426
5BMW 1 Series3,424
6Kia Sportage3,422
7Peugeot 20083,145
8Audi A33,012
9Ford Kuga2,948
10Volvo XC402,577

Source: SMMT

Year to date

1Ford Puma42,136
2Nissan Qashqai34,952
3Vauxhall Corsa33,641
4Kia Sportage31,575
5Tesla Model Y30,087
6Hyundai Tucson29,990
7Nissan Juke27,253
8Mini hatch26,249
9Vauxhall Mokka25,471
10Audi A325,452

Source: SMMT

The latest from The Car Expert

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.