New cars sales motor ahead for third month but remain shy of pre-Covid high

The UK’s new car market has recorded a third successive month of growth but remains well below its pre-pandemic highs.

There were 134,344 new cars registered across the UK in October, up 26.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The organisation attributed the increase to “strong order books” being partly fulfilled. But it noted that October 2021 had been “particularly disappointing”.

The total number of new cars registered so far this year is a third below pre-coronavirus levels.

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SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “A strong October is hugely welcome, albeit in comparison with a weak 2021, but it is still not enough to offset the damage done by the pandemic and subsequent supply shortages. Next year’s outlook shows recovery is possible and EV (electric vehicle) growth looks set to continue, but to achieve our shared net zero goals, that growth must accelerate and consumers given every reason to invest.

“This means giving them the economic stability and confidence to make the switch, safe in the knowledge they will be able to charge - and charge affordably - when needed. The models are there, with more still to come; so must the public charge points.”

The best-selling model last month was the Ford Fiesta, which the US car giant recently announced would be getting axed after more than four decades in production. Second place was taken by the UK-built Nissan Qashqai while the Volkswagen Golf was the third best seller.

Alex Buttle, co-founder of used car marketplace Motorway.co.uk, said: “New car sales usually fall as we head into the winter months, with people prioritising Christmas over car purchases. Therefore, it is a welcome ray of winter sunshine to see such an uplift in new car sales versus last year. Even more encouraging is that EV sales are a significant factor as more drivers turn electric ahead of the 2030 fossil fuel ban on new car sales.”

John Wilmot, chief executive of car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco, said: “The stark reality is, that as the UK transitions to electric vehicles, the charging infrastructure rollout is woefully behind where it needs to be on the path to net zero. The latest local authority (LA) data on public EV charger infrastructure shows that 61 per cent of LAs - 228 of 375 - are failing to rollout public electric car chargers fast enough to meet the government’s 300,000 target.”

There were 134,344 new cars registered across the UK in October, up 26.4 per cent compared with the same month last year. October 2021 had been 'particularly disappointing'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Earlier this week, Brian Gilda, chairman of Scottish Ford dealership heavyweight Peoples, said the “ever-growing appetite” for hybrids will extend to pure EVs as charging infrastructure continues to improve. In anticipation of this, the firm has invested a six-figure sum installing electric chargers across its dealerships. “I’m a believer in the electric car,” said Gilda, who currently drives around in a Ford Mustang Mach-E. “People will get used to it. Will they get used to it quickly? In reality, I suspect not, but that’s probably more to do with the costs and current infrastructure.”