Currently reading: UK new car registrations plummet 20.6% due to supply crisis
Last month was the second slowest May for dealerships in three decades, although EV uptake soared

Ongoing supply-chain issues continue to batter the automotive industry, causing another sharp drop in new car registrations in the UK.

Some 124,394 new cars were registered last month - a 20.6% drop year on year and the second-weakest May in three decades after 2020, when dealerships were closed due to the pandemic. 

That's according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), whose latest figures lay bare the impact on UK dealerships of the parts shortages that have crippled global production networks and caused new car prices to soar as manufacturers look to preserve margins despite a drop in output.

New car registrations were down 32.3% compared with pre-pandemic 2019, when 183,724 new cars were registered.

The SMMT noted that private sales dipped by 10.3% but their market share climbed to 53.2%, as manufacturers prioritised deliveries to private buyers over the business and fleet sectors, which declined by 27.1% and 29.9% respectively. 

So far this year, the UK has registered 661,121 new cars, down from 723,845 by the same time last year and 40.6% down on the pre-pandemic five-year average. 

Of all the new cars registered last month, one in eight (15,448) were battery-electric, a 17.7% increase on last year. 

Meanwhile, there was a significant decline in the amount of plug-in hybrids registered – from 9855 in May 2021 to 7339 last month – and a huge 50.8% drop in the amount of diesel cars leaving forecourts.

Petrol cars dipped in popularity, too, with nearly 20,000 fewer registered year on year, while there was also a chunky downturn in the number of mild hybrids registered.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "In yet another challenging month for the new car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery-electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots."

He added: "To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric. 

"This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars."

The SMMT highlighted the ongoing popularity in Britain of superminis, which claimed a 32.7% market share despite sales in this segment falling 16.4% to 40,667 units.

Back to top

The Vauxhall Corsa is the best-selling car in the market year-to-date, with the 4399 units registered in May, taking it to the top spot with 17,198 registrations, above the Ford Puma on 15,246 and the Nissan Qashqai on 13,596.

Add a comment…

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to register

Privacy Notice

Haymarket Media Group, publishers of Autocar Business, takes your privacy seriously. Our Automotive B2B brands and partners would like to keep you updated by email, phone and SMS with information and opportunities which we hope will help you in your work. Learn more about how we use your information when creating an online account. We believe we can demonstrate a legitimate interest in using your details for marketing messages, but if you do NOT wish to receive these messages, please click here.

I DON'T want messages from Autocar Business or other Automotive B2B brands via the following channels:
by email       by phone       by SMS

I DON'T WANT messages from you on behalf of your trusted partners via the following channels:     by email

We will use your information to ensure you receive messages that are relevant to you. You can unsubscribe at any time. Please see our Full Privacy Notice for more information.