Currently reading: UK new car registrations down 5.8% in August 2020
New SMMT figures show drops in demand across all model segments but a sharp uptick in EV adoption

New figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations fell 5.8% year on year in August, which is traditionally the quietest month for sales.

A total of 87,226 new cars were registered last month – more than 5000 less than the 92,573 recorded in August 2019 – in the run-up to the new 70-plate being introduced at the beginning of September. 

Private car sales were down by just 699 units, at 39,833, but fleet sales recorded a more substantial decline, with a 2650-unit shortfall bringing the total to 48,593 for August. 

The SMMT also recorded declines across all model segments except superminis, with demand for specialist sports cars falling 41.9% and for city cars falling 64.2%. 

On the other hand, it was a bumper month for electrified vehicle sales, with plug-in hybrid demand soaring by 221.1% and registrations of battery-electric vehicles increasing by 77.6%. The SMMT adds, however, that PHEVs still accounted for only one in 30 sales, and EVs made up just 6.4% of the market in August.

However, battery-electric vehicles now account for 4.9% of new car registrations year-to-date, compared with 3.8% at the end of August 2019. 

There were no significant changes to the top 10 best-selling models year-to-date list, with the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus retaining the first and second positions respectively, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa at number three and the Volkswagen Golf in the fourth spot. 

The SMMT said: “In the past five years, the range of zero-emission-capable car models available in the UK has trebled to more than 80, with some 200 more in the pipeline over the coming years.

“For customer demand to keep pace, at least 1.7 million new on-street charging points will need to be built by 2030, along with a long-term commitment from government to provide incentives for EV purchases.”

SMMT boss Mike Hawes called the decline “disappointing” in light of July’s promising uptick but added that “August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months,” so “it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone”. 

Read more

July: UK new car registrations rise for the first time in 2020

New Cars 2020: what's coming this year and when?​

New car registrations: Best-selling cars in the UK​

Back to top

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Herald 4 September 2020

More relevant info please ..

It would be useful as an indicator of most recent sales activity if Autocar would give the figures for each month individually, as well as the running yearly totals quoted in the associated article: even having read through both pieces I would have had no idea that the Fords Puma and Kuga, and the Kia Niro, were amongst August's top-10 sellers.

HiPo 289 4 September 2020

Diesels now have equal market share with electrified cars

If you look at the info on the SMMT website, it is clear that there is a major news story going on that Autocar is ignoring.In both July and August 2020, the market share of diesel cars was equal with that for EVs, PHEVs and hybrids combined.That is a significant story, not only because of the equal market share, but because while electrified car sales are growing fast, diesel car sales are falling off a cliff.It is irresponsible of Autocar not to flag this, because they are still encouraging readers to buy diesel cars, even though those vehicles are soon going to suffer enormous decline in value.It's really worth doing your own research before even considering a diesel car in the current market. Diesel is now a very risky choice. 



Peter Cavellini 4 September 2020

Might have been worse?

 The drop isn't that enormous, in fact, there might some good deals in the offing to shift superminis.

catnip 5 September 2020

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Peter Cavellini wrote:

 The drop isn't that enormous, in fact, there might some good deals in the offing to shift superminis.

Aren't the deals more likely in other segments, as superminis were the only one that didn't decline?