New car registrations slow as shortages suppress growth – SMMT

UK car buyers are turning to the used car market as the ongoing semiconductor shortage and 'pingdemic' hit automotive manufacturers.

New car registrations in July fell by -29.5% to 123,296 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The SMMT says the decline was artificially heightened compared to July last year, when registrations rose dramatically as showrooms enjoyed a full month’s operation following lockdown restrictions easing. But July 2021 was also the first full month that car dealerships have been open since the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Nevertheless, July performance was still down -22.3% on the average recorded over the past decade. The SMMT says the ongoing semiconductor shortage and the ‘pingdemic’ impacted on both supply and demand. As a result, this was the weakest July for new car registrations since 1998, prior to the introduction of the two-plate system.

The decline was predominantly within large fleets which, at 61,140 units, was -28.7% lower than the average recorded over the past decade. Private registrations declined by a lesser extent: -10.7%, to 59,841 units.


July-Fuel-2021-and-YTD-cars-SMMT. Image courtesy of SMMT

Image courtesy of SMMT


Battery electric vehicle growth continues

The bumper growth in plug-in vehicles continued, however, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounting for 9.0% of registrations, while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) reached 8.0%. While all new car segments experienced declines, superminis remained Britain’s most popular types of cars (32.9% of registrations). Lower medium (28.0%) and dual purpose (27.3%) were second and third, respectively.

Vauxhall is the UK’s the best-selling electric Light Commercial Vehicle (e-LCV) manufacturer, selling 1,560 e-LCVs since the start of the year and is now one of the few manufacturers able to offer fleets and business customers an electric van across its entire LCV line-up.

While the UK’s economic outlook continues to strengthen, with most consumer indicators suggesting a greater appetite for spending, including on so-called ‘big ticket’ items, supply challenges continue to throttle growth with the weaker market conditions expected to continue in August – traditionally a quiet month for registrations – before modest growth returns in Q4.

As a result, the latest SMMT outlook has been revised downward and now forecasts registrations to reach around 1.82m units in 2021. This is still 11.7% up on 2020, but down from the 1.86m forecast in April, and down around -21.8% on the average new car market recorded over the past decade.

However, more positively, given the continued strengthening of the electric vehicle market, SMMT now estimates that BEVs will account for 9.5% of registrations by year end, while PHEVs are forecast to comprise 6.5% of the market, collectively totalling around 290,000 units by the end of the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The automotive sector continues to battle against shortages of semiconductors and staff, which is throttling our ability to translate a strengthening economic outlook into a full recovery. The next few weeks will see changes to self-isolation policies which will hopefully help those companies across the industry dealing with staff absences, but the semiconductor shortage is likely to remain an issue until at least the rest of the year. As a result, we have downgraded the market outlook slightly for 2021. The bright spot, however, remains the increasing demand for electrified vehicles as consumers respond in ever greater numbers to these new technologies, driven by increased product choice, fiscal and financial incentives and an enjoyable driving experience.”


*Header image courtesy of Depositphotos