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September registrations show growth but recovery is slow

The UK new car market recorded its second month of growth in a row, as the 72-plate registration books opened during September.

September registrations were up 4.6% on last year, according to the latest information from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). During what is traditionally the second-biggest month of the year, 225,269 cars joined the country’s roads. 

Market still far below pre-pandemic levels

However, while this was a 9,957 unit increase on last year, when the industry recorded its weakest September registrations figures since 1998, overall registrations for the month are still around 34.4% below pre-pandemic levels as the industry continues to battle issues constraining supply to fulfil a backlog of orders. 

Drivers are waiting much longer than usual for their newly-registered vehicle, as carmakers battle shortages of components such as semiconductors, delaying manufacturing times. 

While growth is welcome following a poor first half of the year, total registrations for 2022 remain down 8.2% on a weak 2021 performance and more than a third (35.1%) below the first three quarters of pre-pandemic 2019, equivalent to 653,903 fewer units.

However, the country passed a milestone in September, as the millionth electric car took to the road. 

“Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) make up but a small fraction of cars on the road, so we need to ensure every lever is pulled to encourage motorists to make the shift if our green goals are to be met,” commented Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive.

“The overall market remains weak, however, as supply chain issues continue to constrain model availability. Whilst the industry is working hard to address these issues, the long-term recovery of the market also depends on robust consumer confidence and economic stability.”

Battery-electric is second most popular fuel-type

Electric vehicle (EV) uptake continued to rise, albeit at a slower rate of growth than seen earlier in the year. Yet September saw the second-highest monthly volume of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) registrations in history, up 16.5% to 38,116 units. Drivers are increasingly looking at the technology, although numbers are still lower than petrol registrations. 

Although registrations of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) declined by 11.5% to 12,281 units, overall plug-in vehicles accounted for more than one in five new cars joining UK roads in the month. As a result, almost quarter of a million (249,575) have now been registered in 2022 – meaning that UK drivers and fleets have now registered more than one million plug-in EVs, a quarter of which in this year alone.

Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) registrations, meanwhile, grew by 16.5% to 29,088 units in the month, as petrol powered cars grew 4.3% to 126,873 units and diesels declined by 14.5% to 18,911.

In year-to-date figures, diesel’s market share has dropped to 10.1%, making it the fourth most-popular fuel-type after petrol (57.4%), BEV (14.5%) and HEV (11.8%) units. Although drivers are increasing their interest in BEVs, those flocking away from diesel cars are still choosing its internal-combustion engine counterparts. 

In terms of segments, the largest growth was seen in multi-purpose vehicles, which rose 509.2%, adding more than 10,000 units, to 12,068, a result of key new model availability. Superminis remained the most popular segment overall, accounting for 30.9% of all registrations.

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