Tesla Model 3 was the top selling new car in the UK in September

The UK new car market has recorded its weakest September since 1998, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 215,312 cars were registered in the month, a 34.4% fall on September 2020, when pandemic restrictions were significantly curtailing economic activity.

September is typically the second busiest month of the year for the industry due to the number plate change, but with a shortage of semiconductors affecting vehicle availability, the 2021 performance was down 44.7% on the pre-pandemic 10-year average of 389,680 units.

However, September was the best month ever for new battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake. With a market share of 15.2%, 32,721 BEVs joined the road in the month, just over 5,000 shy of the total number registered during the whole of 2019.

BEVs also notched up the best-selling model with Tesla Model 3 achieving 6,879 sales in September, but it did not feature in the top 10 models for the year-to-date, which was headed by Vauxhall Corsa with 32,616 units.

Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) share also grew to 6.4%, meaning more than one in five new cars registered in September was zero-emission capable. Meanwhile, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) grew their overall market share from 8.0% in 2020 to 11.6%, with 24,961 registered in the month.

Diesel car sales were down 77.3% on the same month a year ago to 10,658, and had the lowest share of any segment of the market at just 5%. Petrol car sales were also down substantially, dropping 46.6% from 176,532 to 94,314 and market share was down from 53.8% to 43.8%.

Private demand was down 25.3% with 120,560 new registrations in the month, and fleets, declined by 43.1% to 90,445 units.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “This is a desperately disappointing September and further evidence of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic on the sector. Despite strong demand for new vehicles over the summer, three successive months have been hit by stalled supply due to reduced semiconductor availability, especially from Asia. Nevertheless, manufacturers are taking every measure possible to maintain deliveries and customers can expect attractive offers on a range of new vehicles.

“Despite these challenges, the rocketing uptake of plug-in vehicles, especially battery electric cars, demonstrates the increasing demand for these new technologies. However, to meet our collective decarbonisation ambitions, we need to ensure all drivers can make the switch – not just those with private driveways – requiring a massive investment in public recharging infrastructure. Chargepoint roll-out must keep pace with the acceleration in plug-in vehicle registrations.”