New car sales rise for second month as electric vehicle take-up hits milestone

Registrations of new cars increased by 4.6 per cent compared with the same month in 2021, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

There were 225,269 new cars registered across the UK in September, which is typically the sector’s second biggest month of the year due to new number plates being released.

September last year was the weakest since 1998, and the number of registrations last month was 34.4 per cent below pre-pandemic levels as the industry continued to battle supply problems. Sales of new cars during the year so far are 8.2 per cent down on the same period in 2021.

More than one million new plug-in electric cars have now been registered in the UK, including 249,575 this year alone, the SMMT noted.

More than one million new plug-in electric cars have now been registered in the UK, including 249,575 this year alone, the SMMT noted.

Electric vehicle uptake continued to rise, albeit at a slower rate of growth than seen earlier in the year.

Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “Could we be seeing a run on new cars? Dealers across the country have reported surging demand in recent weeks as buyers look to get ahead of rising interest costs.

“Whilst we have seen some short term relief on supply allowing dealers to meet the back-log of orders, there are still significant delays to contend with going forward.

“Looking ahead, dealers will be worried about the long term impact of rising finance costs on demand for new cars.”

Alex Buttle, co-founder of used car marketplace, noted: “Anyone who was expecting the traditional spike in new car uptake in September to coincide with ‘new’ number plates will be sadly disappointed.

“With widespread concern about spiralling energy costs, inflation and now mortgage increases, combined with continued supply chain issues, can we really be surprised at the marginal growth in new car sales?

“The glimmer of sunshine peeking through the rain clouds is EV [electric vehicle] sales which continue to stay strong.”

Meanwhile, Vertu Motors, the car dealership heavyweight with a dozen Macklin Motors showrooms in Scotland, reported its second highest half-year of profits as the price of new cars continues to spike.

The group said it made £28 million in profits in the first half of the year after raking in £2 billion in revenues. It is almost half the £52m the group made last year after the exceptional post-pandemic period when new and used car prices went through the roof.

But new car prices have continued to climb and were 13 per cent higher in the six months to the end of August compared with the same period last year. The average selling price of a new vehicle was £24,294.

Vertu, which declared an interim dividend of 0.7p per share, up from 0.65p, said consumers “continue to accept” long lead times for new cars as a result of shortages, and that its order bank levels remain very high.

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