Private new car sales were down 2% in July compared to the same month last year, according to the latest figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The overall new car market was down 4%, which equates to 6,700 vehicles, with fleet and business registrations dragging the total numbers down further.
Once again diesel cars took the brunt of the fall, down by more than 11,000 units over the same month last year. Petrol cars were the main beneficiary, with two-thirds of all new cars now petrol powered. The results for mild hybrids also look good, but bear in mind that these are basically petrol or diesel cars with a very limited amount of electrical assistance to run ancillary equipment like the radio or headlights.
It was a good month for electric vehicles, up by nearly 160% year-on-year; unfortunately for the overall numbers, that only equates to an increase of 1,400 cars. Even with a nearly threefold increase in registrations, electric cars still only make up 1.4% of the overall market.
Sales of regular hybrids were good, up 34% compared to the same month last year. Plug-in hybrids, however, continued their struggle with numbers only half of what they were this time last year.
At this time of year, the car industry would normally be gearing up for the twice-yearly number plate change in September. This year, however, the key month of September happens to be the month before the Brexit deadline of October and it’s unlikely to be remotely helpful for new car sales.
Good month, bad month
July was a good month for some car brands. Alpine, Citroën, DS Automobiles, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Lexus, MG and Toyota all enjoyed an increase of more than 10% over their numbers for the same month last year – although we’re rather cynical of some of those numbers and feel there may be a lot of self-registrations in those figures (cars registered by the manufacturers and dealers for their own use, then sold as used cars in a few months’ time).
Summer Fiesta for Ford
It was a dominant month for the Ford Fiesta – still on top, as usual, but a long way clear of the second-placed Volkswagen Golf. With the Focus improving from fifth last month to fourth this month and the Kuga bouncing back into the top ten, it was a good month for the Blue Oval brand.
Volkswagen will also presumably be pretty pleased with its July efforts. The Golf placed second, while the Tiguan reappeared in the top ten for the first time in a few months and the Polo continues to sell well.
It was generally a strong month for SUVs, with four of the ten best-selling cars being crossovers. This was a bit of a swing from last month when the Nissan Qashqai was all on its own in the top ten.
As usual, we’ll look at the top in more detail later this week, so stay tuned!