UK new car sales dipped by just 1.6% in August, while sales of electric and hybrid cars continued to surge.
In total, 92,573 cars were registered last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 1521 fewer than in August 2018.
While the decline is notably lower than the 3.4% average decline for 2019 to date, Autocar understands that the numbers might have been raised by manufacturers pre-registering cars ahead of the next phase of tighter EU emissions regulations that came into force this month.
Demand for petrol cars remained stable, with the 59,019 registrations, up 1% year on year and accounting for 65.5% of all cars registered this year. By contrast, diesel registrations fell by 12.2%, the 29th consecutive month of decline. Diesel cars now account for 27.0% of all cars registered in the UK so far this year.
The market was boosted by the continued rise in demand for electric and hybrid cars. Electric registrations rose by 377.5% to 3147 units, while sales of hybrid cars increased by 36.2% year on year to 4014. By contrast, plug-in hybrid sales continued to decline since the Government cut subsidies for them, with the 907 registered in August representing a 71.8% decline on the same month last year.
Despite the increases, electrified cars still represent a relatively small portion of the UK new car market. The 17,393 battery-electric cars sold so far in 2019 represent 1.1% of the total market, with hybrids accounting for 4.0% and plug-in hybrids 1.2%. Those figures are expected to grow rapidly as manufacturers launch an increasing number of electrified cars in the coming months.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes called the increased in EV registrations “especially welcome” in a traditionally quiet month for the car market. But he added: “These figures also show the scale of the challenges ahead. It’s a long road to zero [emissions] and while manufacturers can deliver the technology, they can’t dictate the pace of uptake.
“To support a smooth transition and deliver environmental gains now, we need a long-term government commitment to measures that give consumers confidence to invest in the latest technologies that best suit their needs.”