The UK car market enjoyed a substantial boost in August, with year-on-year increases of 23.1%, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
A total of 94,094 new cars were registered in August, traditionally one of the year’s quietest months for sales. The most dramatic sector increase was for alternatively fuelled vehicles, including hybrids and fully electric models, which nearly doubled over the same period in 2017, recording 88.7% year-on-year growth.
Overall, the car market in western Europe saw growth of around 20% on average last month. The UK’s figure for August is the best since at least 2002, according to the data. However, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned against viewing the market as recovering fully from 2018’s previous slump.
He said: “Given August is always a small month for new-car registrations ahead of the important plate-change month of September, it would be wrong to view the market as booming. Indeed, this past month has seen significant variances as regulatory changes have disrupted some supplies.”
Much of the dramatic surge in vehicle registrations can be attributed to the introduction of new WLTP (World harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure) regulations, which determine that all cars manufactured after 1 September this year must have been put under a stricter emissions testing regime.
Vehicles manufactured under the old NEDC testing rules had to be registered by 31 August. As a result, car makers have been registering cars in bulk before the new rules coming into place. This stock can still be sold on forecourts for another year.
The Ford Fiesta retains the top spot for sales, with 4552 registered. Regular challengers such as the Volkswagen Golf, BMW 3 Series and Nissan Qashqai remain in the top 10 too. New entrants also feature, such as the Suzuki Swift and Honda Jazz.
An exceptional number of discount deals in the past month is another reason cited for the sharp increase. It comes after several months of market unrest, which saw UK car registrations down 6.3%. June witnessed the lowest number of new cars registered since 2014, although a small amount of growth was measured in June.
Much of this year’s car market issues in Europe is due to an ongoing slump in demand for diesel, driven by uncertainty over the fuel’s future and fears of increased taxation to come.