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New car sales hold steady in October

Another strong month for electric cars and hybrids, and a Mercedes tops the charts

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Private new car sales held steady in October, although fleet registrations continued to be slightly off the pace in new data published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

With expectations of an upcoming lockdown in England, manufacturers and dealers will have been pushing as many cars out as possible to beat the deadline. Against that, Wales was locked down for the last half of the month, which will have restricted deliveries there.

Private new car registrations actually increased compared to the same month last year, albeit by just 0.4% or 238 cars, so basically nothing. Business registrations, which only account for 2% of the market, were slightly up as well. But, as has been the case all year, fleet registrations remained down on the same month last year – by just over 3% – as companies continue to minimise spending on new vehicles.

The other factor that may have helped October sales was increased media discussion about potential price increases once Brexit comes into full force in January. With the car industry warning that a no-deal Brexit will lead to price hikes on all new cars, it may be that both private and fleet customers have brought forward some new car purchases to avoid paying more next year.

Electrified cars outsell diesels again

For the second month in a row, electrified cars (full-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and regular hybrids) outsold diesel cars. With 20% market share, electrified cars can finally claim to be entering the mainstream of new car buying. Diesel sales are undoubtedly hurt by slow fleet sales, but now appear to be in a vicious cycle of falling sales leading to models being cut, which means falling sales, which means more models get cut.

Of course, this means that 60% of new cars are still petrol powered (including those with mild hybrid assistance). As electric and hybrid cars continue to become more popular, this share will start to fall in the next couple of years.

November and December looking bleak

With a four-week lockdown now in place for England until early December, registration numbers for November will inevitably suffer. It won’t be as bad as we saw in April, where overall numbers were down 97%, because dealers will still be able to operate click-and-collect or home delivery options for people to buy new cars. But it will still be a lot worse with showrooms closed for a month, and it will hurt December’s numbers as well.

Expect some desperation and fire sales in December once showrooms in England re-open, as car dealers and car manufacturers look to finish a dreadful year on some kind of positive note. The Brexit price-rise rhetoric will also ramp up to try and entice buyers into showrooms before Christmas.

Good month, bad month

As usual, there was still plenty of variation in the market despite the overall total being down less than 2%.

It was a positive month for Audi, Jeep, MG, Mini, Skoda, Smart, Subaru, Vauxhall and Volvo, who all reported sales at least 10% better than the market fall of 2%

Life wasn’t so rosy for Alfa Romeo, Alpine, DS Automobiles, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Maserati, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, SEAT or Volkswagen. All of these brands saw registration numbers down by at least 10% more than the market average. Expect some aggressive offers between now and Christmas…

A for Awesome as Mercedes tops the charts

The most popular new car in October was a Mercedes-Benz, with the A-Class surging to the top of the charts ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta. With only two months to go, it looks like the Fiesta will hang onto its overall “UK’s Best-Selling New Car” crown for another year, although the Corsa will probably run it close. The Fiesta is probably also being hurt by the success of the Ford Puma, which is basically a crossover version of the Fiesta anyway.

Elsewhere, it was another good month for the Volvo XC40, while the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 both popped up at the bottom of the top ten. It’s the first appearance for the new A3, while the 1 Series returns for the first time since May. We’ll have our usual top ten coverage in the next couple of days.

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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.