• Electrified vehicle demand surges in small volume August but supply issues undermine overall market
  • August new car registrations fall -22.0% in traditionally quiet month pre-plate change.
  • Demand for battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars surges with PHEVs rising most, up 72.1%.
  • Market year-to-date up 20.3% against Covid hit 2020, but below pre-pandemic levels as sector still battles Covid-related chip shortages.

Car registration summary Aug 2021

UK new car registrations fell by 22% in August, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), as demand for ‘electrified’ vehicles surges, but supply issues undermine the overall market

It reported that 68,033 units were registered in what is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for new car registrations ahead of the important plate change in September.

The monthly performance was the weakest since August 2013, and down 7.6% against the average recorded over the past decade, due in part to constrained supply as the global shortage of semiconductors, an issue born of the pandemic, continues to undermine production volumes.

August 2021 best sellers_cars

Demand for the latest battery electric (BEV), hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles, however, surged, up 32.2%, 45.7% and 72.1% respectively. The SMMT says demand for PHEVs has outpaced BEVs in five of the last six months since changes to the Plug-in Car Grant, affecting BEVs, were introduced in March. There are now some 130 plug-in models on the market, with the range continuing to grow.

Registrations by private, business and fleet buyers all fell by double digits in the month, with fleet purchases down 27.5%, a loss of 12,627 units. Private activity held up better, registrations dropping 15.2% to 33,771 units, meaning that just shy of half (49.6%) of all sales in August were driven by private consumers. The mini segment was the only car bodystyle to see growth, up 30.7%, but with just 902 registrations it is a segment prone to greater fluctuations.

So far this year, UK new car registrations remain up 20.3%, to 1,101,302 registrations, an increase of 185,687 units with BEVs and PHEVs at 8.4% and 6.6% market share respectively. However, this performance is measured against the Covid-hit 2020 market, when showrooms were closed for much of the year. Total registrations in 2021 are 25.3% below the 10-year average for the period January to August, illustrating the ongoing and wide ranging impact of the pandemic on automotive retail.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “While August is normally one of the quietest months for UK new car registrations these figures are still disappointing, albeit not wholly surprising. The global shortage of semiconductors has affected UK - and indeed global - car production volumes so new car registrations will inevitably be undermined. Government can help by continuing the supportive Covid measures in place currently, especially the furlough scheme which has proven invaluable to so many businesses.

“As we enter the important September plate-change month with an ever-increasing range of electrified models and attractive deals, buyers in the market for the new 71 plate can be reassured manufacturers are doing all they can to ensure prompt deliveries.”

Ben Nelmes, head of Policy and Research at New AutoMotive - which aims to support accelerate the switch to electric vehicles in the UK - said: 

“It’s great to see electric car sales going from strength to strength. Another 6,000 motorists are set to benefit from cheaper running costs, a better driving experience - and we all benefit from cleaner air.

“August’s figures are yet more evidence that the transition to electric vehicles is gathering pace. The UK will benefit if the government acts now to ensure that the charging infrastructure is rolled out rapidly and that people are equipped with the skills they need to get ahead of the curve.

“This summer, we heard some people suggest that the UK should try to resist the inevitable transition to EVs; doing so would be like building sandcastles against the incoming tide.”

In terms of what electric cars people were buying, he said that for the for the second month in a row, VWs were the most numerous EVs bought by UK motorists, with Tesla down in fourth place: ”VW’s position in the market is markedly different to just a year ago. In August 2020 they sold just 100 EVs compared with 1,000 this year.”

August Fuel 2021 and YTD cars