UK new car registrations fall to nine-year low for October as Welsh firebreak impacts demand

The number of new cars registered in the UK fell by 1.6 per cent year-on-year in October, according to new figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Some 140,945 cars were registered, making it the worst October since 2011 and 10.1 per cent lower than the average recorded across the last decade.

Though the arrival of a sweep of new models and financial incentives helped to keep demand up in the month, the introduction of a firebreak lockdown period in Wales on October 23 contributed to the nation recording 25.5 per cent fewer registrations by the end of the month, accounting for over half of the UK’s overall decline.

Lower amounts of business activity also fuelled the decline, with around 2,500 fewer cars joining large fleets than in October 2019, though private registrations did see a small uptick of 0.4 per cent.

However, according to the SMMT, this small growth was highlighted by a weak October 2019 which suffered from supply issues related to regulatory challenges, as well as uncertainty ahead of the anticipated Halloween Brexit withdrawal which caused private registrations to dive by 13.1 per cent during the month.

Though the registrations of both petrol and diesel cars were down by 21.3 per cent and 38.4 per cent respectively, fully electric car registrations jumped by 195.2 per cent – going from 3,162 cars in October 2019 to 9,335 cars in the same month this year. Market share jumped from 2.2 per cent in 2019 to 6.6 per cent in 2020.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “When showrooms shut, demand drops, so there is a real danger that with England today entering a second lockdown, both dealers and manufacturers could face temporary closure. What is not in doubt, however, is that the entire industry now faces an even tougher end to the year as businesses desperately try to manage resources, stock, production and cash flow in the penultimate month before the inevitable upheaval of Brexit.

“Keeping showrooms open – some of the most Covid-secure retail environments around – would help cushion the blow but, more than ever, we need a tariff-free deal with the EU to provide some much-needed respite for an industry that is resilient but massively challenged.