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Fleet sales growth masks ongoing new car sales turbulence

Nissan trumps Tesla in the September sales charts but consumer new car sales were down in a poor showing overall

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Consumer new car sales were down by about 4% compared to the same month last year in a disappointing September result for the car industry, although fleet sales have finally shown some signs of life.

The monthly new car registration figures published this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reflect the ongoing chaos within the new car market, with nothing to really suggest we’re going to finish 2022 on a high.

Overall numbers were up by just under 5% compared to the same month last year. But, then again, last September was the worst September result in nearly 25 years, so being slightly better than the worst result in a quarter of a century isn’t a massive step forward.

The growth was largely due to increased fleet registrations, which were up 12% on last year (but then last year was down 43% on the year before…). Meanwhile, private new car sales were down 4% on last year, which in turn was down 25% on the year before.

September 2022 new car sales
Source: SMMT

EVs continue to grow, plug-in hybrids continue to tank

The SMMT release was unhelpfully misleading with a headline boasting that the UK had hit a ‘one million EV milestone’. However, this actually includes plug-in hybrids, which are rapidly becoming the kind of car that no-one wants.

Plug-in hybrids used to outsell proper EVs as car buyers were reluctant to completely cut the cord with fossil fuels and commit to an all-electric car. But with the latest generation of EVs offering more than than enough battery range for most household needs, the plug-in hybrid has fallen massively out of favour.

After the first nine months of the year, plug-in hybrid sales are down 15%, while full EV sales are up 40% and standard hybrids (that can’t be plugged in) are up 18%.

Meanwhile, diesel sales continue to fall but that’s not exactly news, since they’ve been doing that almost every month since about 2016.

Source: SMMT

Good month, bad month

Ford powered its way back to the top of the overall sales charts with a strong month as supply improved for its best-selling models (Fiesta, Kuga, Puma). Volkswagen also did well, placing second in the overall sales charts despite Golf still underachieving. Toyota was third, ahead of Kia, Nissan and BMW. Nissan’s strong month was largely thanks to an enormous result for the Qashqai (see below).

Across the industry, it was another month of very mixed fortunes. A few brands did very well, while many more were significantly below par.

There was good news for Cupra, Ford, Genesis, MG, Mini, Nissan, Polestar, Porsche, Tesla and Volkswagen, who all outperformed the overall market results by at least 10%.

Meanwhile, there was no such cheer for Abarth, BMW, Fiat, Honda, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Rover, Lexus, Maserati, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Smart, SsangYong, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Vauxhall and Volvo. All of these brands underachieved against the overall market by at least 10%.

Storming month for British-built Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai, built in Sunderland, topped the new car sales charts in September with a remarkable performance. More than 9,300 Qashqais were registered for the month, which was 1,000 more than another stunning performance from the second-placed Tesla Model Y.

Tesla has form over the last couple of years of co-ordinating its new car deliveries to top the charts in key months, and 8,300+ Model Ys should have done the same in September – for reference, last year’s best seller in September was the Tesla Model 3, which logged fewer than 7,000 registrations.

In contrast, the Vauxhall Corsa fell out of the top ten altogether. Combined with the enormous result for the Qashqai, the 2022 new car sales race has suddenly been thrown wide open.

Source: SMMT

Literally one month ago, I wrote: “With four months to go, the Corsa holds a much larger lead than it did at this time last year. So unless Vauxhall has some kind of end-of-year sales meltdown, the Corsa looks set to retain its crown.”

Well, the Corsa didn’t quote have a meltdown (it still sold about 3,400 cars, which is well down on the same month last year but hardly a catastrophe), but the combination of a poor month plus the Qashqai’s barnstorming month means that the two cars are separated by only eight sales after nine months.

Could we see the Qashqai take the 2022 sales crown and become the first British-built car to top the sales charts in a very long time (I don’t actually even know how long, but certainly well over a decade)?

We’ll have our usual top-ten analysis in the next day or so.

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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.