New car registrations fall slightly in August

A stunning debut for the Tesla Model 3?

- Advertisement -

Private new car sales were down by less than 2% in August, which was a slightly better result than recent months according to the latest figures published today.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that the overall market was down 1.6% in August, which only equates to about 1,500 fewer vehicles in what is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for new car registrations.

August was an improvement on the way the rest of the year has been going

Total new car registrations in August were about 92,000, compared to the 350,000ish we can expect in September. It should also be pointed out that it was the second-best August on record, behind only last year. However, this is likely to be for reasons other than buyers actually getting out and buying cars.

Diesel’s market share remained at about 26% as it has been for the last couple of months, suggesting that the slide in diesel is probably bottoming out – or at least slowing to a more manageable level for manufacturers and dealers.

There was good news for registrations of electric vehicles, which saw an enormous increase in year-on-year registrations – thanks largely to the UK launch of the new Tesla Model 3. However, this still equates to a market share of only 3%, showing that much more needs to be done in this area.

Hybrid vehicles also continued to grow, but plug-in hybrids are still struggling with numbers less than a third of full-electric vehicles. The fairly irrelevant mild hybrid vehicle registrations (which used to be counted as normal petrol or diesel cars, since they can’t move under electrical power) are also growing.

A good month for electric cars, but another poor month for plug-in hybrids

Industry wary of September slump

September is one of the two biggest months of the year for new car sales, with new number plates traditionally drawing buyers into showrooms.

After a terrible result last September, largely driven by manufacturers not having enough cars available that complied with new emissions regulations, the industry is wary of another potentially difficult month this year.

The Brexit paralysis in parliament is dragging on and seems almost certain to roll into next year, coupled with the threat of a general election in the near future. Both of these will undoubtedly continue to put customers off buying a new car if they have the ability to delay it.

While nearly all private new cars are bought on PCP finance, which basically forces a customer into another car when the agreement ends, the industry has been pushing customers into longer contract terms, meaning they’re not coming back as often. But, inevitably, the industry refuses to countenance the possibility of that actually being the main cause of the fall in new car registrations.

Good month, bad month

August was a good month for Alfa Romeo, Audi, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Jeep, Lexus, Maserati, MG, Porsche, SsangYong, Toyota and Volvo, who all saw registration numbers jump by at least 10% compared to the same month last year. As with last month, we’re fairly cynical about a few of those named and believe that there may have been a lot of self-registering going on to result in those gains.

However, it was unhappy times for Abarth, Alpine, Bentley, BMW, Fiat, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Smart, Subaru and Suzuki, who all suffered declines of more than 10% compared to last August.

Fiesta and Golf lead Other(s)

As usual, the Ford Fiesta topped the sales charts in August, ahead of the Volkswagen Golf. Third place, however, was listed as ‘Other’. This was an excellent result for Other, which has not appeared in the top ten for a long time.

There has been suggestion that Other is actually the new Tesla Model 3, which launched in August. Certainly, the massive growth in electric car registrations would support this. It would certainly be an impressive debut, but it is unlikely that Tesla would be able to continue selling cars at this rate every month. The likelihood is that it was a calculated strategy to generate headlines in a quiet month.

‘Other’ really burst onto the scene this month…

The Volkswagen T-Roc also had a good month, making its first appearance in the top ten in seventh place. This came at the expense of the Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Polo and Kia Sportage, which all fell out.

As usual, we will explore the top-ten results in more detail over the next few days.

- Advertisement -
Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
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.

Latest Expert Advice

Driving test change to boost accessibility

Video clips are to replace written scenarios in UK driving tests to make them more accessible.

Personal Contract Purchase: the PCP explained

The PCP (personal contract purchase) is the most popular type of car finance. This guide tells you everything you need to know about PCP car finance.

Latest Expert Ratings

Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10 has received very positive media reviews, with particular praise for its interior quality, equipment levels and driving experience.

Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke has received widespread praise for its smoother styling compared to the divisive original, as well as being much better to drive.

All-new Hyundai i20 breaks cover

Hyundai has pulled back the covers on the new i20, with the supermini the first car to sport the firm’s ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ approach to design.

Refreshed Honda Civic Type R adds hardcore and stealthier versions

Honda has overhauled its Civic Type R, introducing a track-focused limited edition version along with a more subdued Sport Line option.

Car finance lender forced to pay customers £30 million in compensation

Car finance lender Moneybarn has also been fined almost £3 million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after failing to help vulnerable customers.

UK used car market holds steady in 2019

Some 7.9 million used cars changed hands during the year, almost exactly the same as the previous year

More from The Car Expert

Expert Advice

Award-winning, independent and impartial advice on buying, financing, owning and running a car

Expert Ratings

We analyse and aggregate dozens of media reviews for each new car into an overall Expert Rating

Expert News

All the most important new car launches, model updates, car reviews and industry news

Expert Partners

Our new space for commercial partners to bring you special offers on their products and services

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.