UK new car sales in August grew 23.1% year-on-year to 94,404 units, marking a 16-year high for the month, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have shown.
The traditionally quiet summer market received a boost through special offers from franchised dealers, and from manufacturers’ effort to go through existing stock before the introduction of WLTP emission standards.
Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFV) in particular saw an 88.7% spike to 7,489 units, pushing their market share for the month from 5.2% to 8%. The month’s record high did not benefit diesel sales, which shrunk 7.7% to 28,000 units, versus a 39.1% rise to 42,156 units for petrol cars.
Small business vehicle registrations, which were last year negligible around the 1,000 mark, saw a noticeable jump of 166% to 2,500 units.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s great to see such strong growth, particularly in the important electric vehicle market. However, given August is always a small month in new car registrations ahead of the important plate-change month of September, it would be wrong to view the market as booming.
“Indeed, this past month has seen some significant variances as regulatory changes have disrupted some supplies. In the long term, however, the new emissions certification test will give consumers renewed confidence in the performance of all vehicles.”
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Ian Plummer, director at retail platform Auto Trader, said: “This may have been a very strong August, but of course it’s a false economy. As we saw in March 2017, when registrations were brought forward in advance of changes to Vehicle Excise Duty, WLTP will put huge pressure on September.
“Delays in producing and approving new car stock to the new rules is likely to continue into Q4, which will hamper sales as retailers and consumers will be limited to what’s available.
“Consumers are set to face the option of taking a swifter delivery of a model which may not be their ideal choice, or waiting longer than usual for the right car to be built and delivered, potentially via foreign car plants. Support will be needed to help balance that tricky consumer trade off of ideal choice, value and speed.”