Vauxhall Corsa tops the sales charts in September

September was either not bad or not great, depending on your political agenda

- Advertisement -

New car registrations showed a small increase in September, according to the industry results published today, with the Vauxhall Corsa dethroning the Ford Fiesta from its long reign at the top of the charts.

Private new car sales were almost unchanged from the same month last year (an insignificant 0.1% increase), with the overall growth being driven by fleet increases of nearly 9% according to the data provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Private sales were almost identical to the same month last year.

The caveat with getting too excited or disappointed with the results is that last year’s September results were highly distorted by changes to emissions legislation, which caught out several big brands and left them with very few cars to sell, but benefited other brands who had sorted themselves out in advance of the changes. Some of this year’s results are therefore corrections of unusual results last year.

September is also a big month for private new car buyers, who are attracted to the shiny new number plates, which significantly alters the make-up of the overall results.

Private buyers tend to buy fewer diesels, more EVs and hybrids, and more small and/or aspirational cars than hard-nosed fleet buyers, who are driven by the overall bottom line.

Diesel numbers not as bad as they look

It was another yet poor month for diesel-powered cars, but the reality was not quite as bad as the SMMT tries to make it look to suit its political agenda.

September is a big month for private new car sales, which impacts the overall results (good for EVs and hybrids, bad for diesels)

For the last few months, the SMMT has separated mild hybrids from normal petrol and diesel model, which has distorted the results. This is pretty dubious to start with, since mild hybrids are always powered by petrol or diesel and not by electricity alone, but it also distorts the overall diesel numbers by a greater proportion than other types of power source.

So rather than diesel cars showing a market share of 22.6%, it should really be considered to be 24.6% – still not great but much closer to what’s been happening for the rest of this year.

Being a big private sales month, the percentage of diesel sales is always lower in September than most months anyway, so declining consumer appetite for diesel cars is inevitably going to mean poorer results. The flip side of that is that the sales of electric and hybrid cars get a boost.

Fiesta toppled from throne as Corsa surges to the top

It’s been about two years since the top spot in the Top Ten was held by anything other than the Ford Fiesta, but that run has now come to an end. Mind you, the Fiesta has only slipped to second, and was only pipped by about 700 units, so it’s not exactly a crisis for Ford.

Quite a few changes this month, which we’ll explore in more detail in coming days

In the meantime, the departing Vauxhall Corsa has scored what will almost certainly be a final glory before its replacement model arrives in early 2020. New registration months are always strong for the Corsa, and Vauxhall has done well to topple its old rival in September.

As expected, the Tesla Model 3 – last month’s sales sensation – has fallen straight back out of the Top Ten. Looking at the overall results (Tesla does not declare its registration numbers to the SMMT), the Model 3 seems to have had another good month with similar sales to August. But August is a tiny month for the new car market and September is one of the largest, so everyone else had far more sales than August.

As always, we’ll look in more detail at the Top Ten in the next few days.

Good month, bad month

As always, there are winners and losers in the new car market. Comparing direct results to last year is difficult this month, as fuel economy and emissions legislation introduced last year significantly affected many brand results (in both good and bad ways). Therefore some of the names below are simply correcting big swings from last September’s results – particularly the Volkswagen Group brands, who were probably the hardest hit this time last year.

It was good news for Alpine, Bentley, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Lexus, Mazda, MG, Mini, Porsche, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Suzuki and Volkswagen (and presumably Tesla), who all recorded sales increases of at least 10% year-on-year for September.

Meanwhile, it was a disappointing September for Abarth, Citroën, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Maserati, Smart, SsangYong and Subaru, whose numbers fell by more than 10% compared to the same month last year.

- 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

Audi A4

Based on nearly 50 reviews, the Audi A4 has an Expert Rating that matches the Mercedes-Benz C-Class but falls some way behind the BMW 3 Series and others.


The BMW X5 currently holds a rating of 80% on our Expert Rating scale, which is a few points behind the class leaders but still competitive.

Limited-edition Cupra Ateca bolsters line-up

Cupra has announced a limited-edition version of its not-a-SEAT Ateca performance SUV.

Refreshed Mitsubishi Mirage arrives in UK

The revised Mitsubishi Mirage is now available in the UK, with pricing starting at £10,550.

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.