Sales of new electric cars to private buyers fell by 14% in September, while overall consumer new car sales rose by 6% in one of the two biggest months of the year for new car sales.
According to data published this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) the overall new car market grew by 21% in September compared to the same month last year. However, this was mostly driven by strong increases in the fleet sector, which was up by 41%.
As we’ve mentioned pretty much every month for the last year, the impressive-looking growth in the fleet numbers is more of a recovery, as fleet sales were hit much harder than private sales during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. The overall balance between fleet and private registrations in 2023 is far more in line with ‘normal’ data than what we saw from 2020 to 2022.
We’ll have more to say about the slump in consumer EV sales separately but, in summary, the government seems to be willing to undermine the car industry in order to try and win a few votes at the coming general election.
|Buyer||September 2023||September 2022||% change||Market share 2023||Market share 2022|
Year to date
|Buyer||YTD 2023||YTD 2022||% change||Market share 2023||Market share 2022|
Consumer EV sales crash is a big headache for car industry
Although there is one big mitigating factor – Tesla – in the September results, there’s no good news from falling consumer sales of new electric cars. New EV sales are being propped up by the fleet market, but 2023 results overall still put EV’s market share behind 2022’s full-year results. So unless we get a massive rush for new EVs between now and Christmas, the market will be going backwards.
It’s possible that we will see more growth over the last three months of the year, especially since Tesla had a surprisingly quiet September. But given that the prime minister seems desperate to talk down EVs and encourage people to keep buying petrol cars, that would appear unlikely.
So it’s a big stretch to suggest that 2023’s EV results will show real growth over 2022. That’s a problem, because new quotas come into effect in just three months’ time, which require the car manufacturers to sell at least 22% EVs next year. Currently, the EV market share is just over 16% year-to-date and the government appears to have no idea (or interest) in growing that to help meet the targets it has imposed on the car industry.
While it’s too early to say how many car buyers were directly put off by the prime minister’s recent U-turn on the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales, it’s surely no coincidence that consumer EV sales dropped so significantly in September. Even diesel’s market share increased slightly, which reverses a long-term trend of declining sales.
New car registrations by fuel type – September
|Fuel||September 2023||September 2022||% change||Market share 2023||Market share 2022|
*includes mild hybrids
New car registrations by fuel type – Year to date
|Fuel||YTD 2023||YTD 2022||% change||Market share 2023||Market share 2022|
*includes mild hybrids
Good month, bad month
Even with a 21% overall market growth in one of the two biggest months of the year, it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows for everyone in September. Some car manufacturers saw significantly less growth than the market average, while others saw sales fall dramatically.
The most notable brand in September was Tesla, which saw numbers down 36% compared to the same month last year. But if judging any brand based on one month is difficult, with Tesla it’s even harder as the company doesn’t have stabe monthly supply pipelines like most brands. It works on more of a boom/bust nature, with huge months followed by much smaller months. So it may just be that Tesla’s production and delivery cycle didn’t yield as many cars for September, and we may see the Model Y back atop the sales charts next month.
It was a strong month for Abarth, Alpine, Audi, Cupra, Fiat, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Peugeot, Polestar, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Vauxhall and Volvo. All these brands outperformed the overall market by at least 10% (so saw sales up by at least 31% over the same month last year).
Things were a lot less exciting for Alfa Romeo, Bentley, BMW, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Ford, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Maserati, Mini, Nissan, Smart, SsangYong, Tesla and Toyota. All of these brands underperformed against the overall market by at least 10% (so saw sales growth of less than 11%, and in some cases significantly down on last year).
Volkswagen was the biggest-selling brand in September, ahead of Ford, Audi, Kia and Toyota. Incidentally, that’s the same top five in year-to-date sales as well.
Qashqai on top again in September
Just like last year, the Nissan Qashqai topped the sales charts in September (rebounding from a slow month in August, also like last year). Its numbers were down slightly on last year’s result, but still good enough to keep the Ford Puma off the top of the charts despite a very strong month from Ford’s new best-selling model.
Eight of the top ten cars were small or medium SUVs, with just two supermini-sized hatchbacks (the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo) making the cut in the lower regions of the chart. It was a good month for MG with two models in the top ten.
With nine months of the year gone, the Ford Puma has increased its lead in the 2023 sales race after a subdued month for both the Corsa and the Tesla Model Y. The Qashqai’s strong September has pushed it up to second place, while the Kia Sportage has overtaken its Hyundai Tucson cousin for fifth place. At the bottom end of the top ten, the Mini hatch has swapped places with the Ford Fiesta for the ninth and tenth spots.
We’ll have our usual monthly analysis of the top ten shortly.