The number of new cars registered in the UK plummeted once again in April, even in comparison with the same month last year, when dealerships were closed to customers for 11 days.
The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that 119,167 new cars were registered across the UK last month, down 15.8% on April 2021, when sales were impacted by laws surrounding social distancing, which kept dealerships closed until 12 April.
The trade body cites ongoing supply chain problems – chiefly the global shortage of semiconductor components – as the primary factor in the decline.
A knock-on effect of this shortage is that manufacturers have been prioritising the delivery of vehicles to retail customers, given the higher profit margins over fleet vehicles - so while private sales climbed a "modest" 4.8%, there was a substantial 33.3% drop in fleet registrations.
Smaller business registration volumes, by contrast, climbed 15.4%.
Other contributing factors in the downturn include rising inflation as a result of "spiralling" energy and fuel costs – which are placing pressure on households and thereby reducing demand for new cars – and the global political uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine.
As a result, the SMMT has downgraded its forecast for new car registrations for 2022 from 1.89 million units to 1.72m - which would, it notes, still be a 4.5% increase over 2021.
As has become the norm, electrified vehicles continue to buck the trend towards overall decline, with 12,899 pure-electric cars registered last month - a 40.9% increase on last year and equivalent to 10.8% of the market.
Meanwhile, there was an 18.3% rise in demand for full-hybrid cars while demand for plug-in hybrids dropped 32.8%.
Overall, electrified vehicles accounted for 27.9% of all cars registered in April.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "The worldwide semiconductor shortage continues to drag down the market, with global geopolitical issues threatening to undermine both supply and demand in the coming months.
"Manufacturers are doing everything they can to deliver the latest low- and zero-emission vehicles, and those considering purchase should look to place their orders now to benefit from incentives, low interest rates and reduced running costs.
"Accelerating the transformation of the new car market and the carbon savings demanded of road transport in such difficult times requires not just the resolution of supply issues, however, but a broader package of measures that encourages customer demand and addresses obstacles, the biggest of which remains charging anxiety."