New car registrations showed considerable improvement in October, thanks to a number of car companies finally having more cars available to supply customers. However, that doesn’t mean big deals and discounts are back again…
Registrations were up 26% in October compared to the same month last year, according to this morning’s data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That sounds good at first, until you realise that last year was down 24% on October 2020, which was an unreliable year due to Covid, which in any case was on par with 2019, which was a poor month due to Brexit insecurities (remember them?), which was down 13% on 2018, which itself was a month of relative turmoil due to the after-effects of recently introduced emissions legislation. In other words, October is an unreliable guide to anything.
So the news is better but far from great. A number of big car companies – including Ford, the Volkswagen Group and Toyota – saw significant growth over the same point last year, with significant benefits for fleet customers. Indeed, fleet registrations were up 47% while private new car sales were only up by 7%.
The fact that car companies have ramped their vehicles deliveries to fleet back up suggests that they are confident that their supply difficulties of the last year are improving. Fleet customers tend to enjoy significant discounts on the retail prices that consumers pay, so car companies have been prioritising private customers while they’ve had very limited numbers of cars to sell.
Has Electric Avenue become a cul-de-sac?
Almost every month for the last few years, we’ve seen electric car sales growing relative to the overall market. That didn’t happen in October, although it’s likely to be a short-term supply problem rather than a longer-term issue. There’s also the added complication of Tesla’s numbers.
Tesla doesn’t behave like a normal car company. Its sales come in fits and starts, which has a massive effect on overall industry numbers. For example, in September, Tesla claimed 8,315 sales of the Model Y – an enormous number for a single month. In October, it announced a grand total of four Model Y registrations. Yes, four.
This level of swing on the country’s most popular EV has a massive impact on monthly industry data. So we really need to wait until the full-year results are published in a just a couple of months’ time to get a meaningful comparison on a year-by-year basis.
Electric sales will continue to grow, so don’t read too much into any suggestions that they’re struggling. However, market conditions are certainly not helping. As interest rates keep going up and supply problems still impact on vehicle availability, EVs remain expensive. And with household electricity prices soaring, there are fears (largely unjustified) that the running cost advantages of an EV have disappeared.
Good month, bad month
It’s clear that some car companies have been able to ramp production levels back up more quickly than others, with wildly varying results across the industry last month.
Ford stayed at the top of the overall sales charts, edging out Volkswagen with Audi in third place. It was a disappointing result for both Kia and Hyundai, whose October performances were down compared to the rest of this year so far.
Compared with last October, it was a good month for Abarth, Audi, Bentley, Cupra, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Ford, Genesis, Honda, Land Rover, MG, Nissan, Polestar, Skoda, Toyota and Volkswagen. All of these brands outperformed the overall new car market by at least 10%.
Meanwhile, things weren’t so cheery for Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Peugeot, Porsche, SEAT, Smart, SsangYong, Suzuki, Tesla and Volvo. All of these companies underachieved by at least 10% compared to the overall market.
Fiesta returns to the top of the chart a week after being axed
The Fiesta stays in the headlines this week, athough this time the news is good. Just a week after Ford announced it would be killed off next summer, the Fiesta returned to the top of the sales charts for the first time since February 2021. It was a close-run thing, with Ford claiming a mere two units over the second-placed Nissan Qashqai.
However, the Fiesta’s return to glory in October hasn’t been enough to return it to the top ten in year-to-date sales, and that’s where the month’s biggest result can be found. With just two months to go in 2021, we have a new leader in the sales race as the Nissan Qashqai has overtaken the Vauxhall Corsa.
Just two months ago, it seemed a mere formality that the Corsa would retain its annual sales crown from last year. But it faltered badly in the crucial month of September, while Nissan had a stunningly successful result with the Qashqai. And in October, another 1,400-unit advantage to the Qashqai has allowed it to overhaul the Corsa.
With two months to go, it will be a very close race. But the Nissan Qashqai appears to have all the momentum at the moment.