New car registrations up more than 28% in July, completing one full year of sales growth

  • New car registrations were up more than 28 per cent in July
  • July was 12th consecutive month of growth
  • Ford Puma remains the country’s favourite

Time 7:31 am, August 4, 2023

The new car market has recorded a full year of growth as registrations were up again in July.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed new car registrations were up by 28.3 per cent in July, compared with the same month last year.

July was the 12th consecutive monthly year-on-year increase making it a year of ‘non-stop’ growth, said the organisation, as carmakers enjoyed ever improving component supply chains.

It was the best July since 2020 when dealers reopened their doors following months of lockdown.

Company registrations drove the growth, as uptake by large fleets increased 61.9 per cent to 80,961 units and business registrations rose 28.7 per cent to 2,915 new vehicles. Private demand remained stable at 60,045 units (up 0.3 per cent).

The Ford Puma was July’s best-selling car and remains the year-to-date most popular car.

Electrified cars – hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) – accounted for 35.4 per cent of the market, but it was BEVs that recorded the largest gain.

Registrations of pure-electrics rose by 87.9 per cent year-on-year, accounting for 16 per cent of all registrations for the month.

The SMMT said a new BEV was registered every 60 seconds in July – a figure that will fall to every 50 seconds by the end of the year, and 40 seconds by the close of 2024.

That figure will rise to 23 per cent across all of 2024, predicted the SMMT.

However the trade body countered this by saying ‘every means of support must be provided’ in supporting consumers switching to electric cars, from ‘fiscal incentives to purchase reassurance’.

The SMMT said there were ‘positive signs’ over the last quarter, though, as a record high of 3,056 new standard public chargers were installed, equating to one new charger for every 35 new cars fitted with a plug. In the same quarter last year, the ratio was one charger for every 53 new cars.

Ford Puma

Ford’s Puma remains the UK’s favourite

Ford notched up 4,124 registrations of its Puma, placing the crossover at the top of July’s sales charts. It was followed by four SUVs – the Kia Sportage (3,060), Nissan Qashqai (3,032), Vauxhall Mokka (3,002) and Hyundai’s Tucson (2,608).

July’s performance strengthened the Puma’s grip at the top of the year-to-date chart with 26,889 registrations. Vauxhall’s Corsa is in second place (23,751) and the Nissan Qashqai is third with 23,015 registrations.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT chief Mike Hawes said: ‘The industry remains committed to meeting the UK’s zero emission deadlines and continues to make the investments to get us there. Choice and innovation in the market are growing, so it’s encouraging to see more people switching on to the benefits of driving electric.

‘With inflation, rising costs of living and a zero emission vehicle mandate that will dictate the market coming next year, however, consumers must be given every possible incentive to buy.

‘Government must pull every lever, therefore, to make buying, running and, especially, charging an EV affordable and practical for every driver in every part of the country.’

What does the industry think?

Responding to the SMMT’s figures, Ian Plummer, commercial director at Auto Trader, said: ‘Despite healthy electric registrations in July, consumer interest in EVs was flat last month according to Auto Trader advert views.

‘That’s a disappointing but reliable indicator of where sales are heading, and not sufficient in what should be a period of rapid growth in adoption.

‘Given the recent headlines on the 2030 ban, this isn’t surprising.

‘Our political leaders are swayed by siren voices saying that abandoning green policies is the solution to our problems.

‘That’s a dangerous path to go down and those voices both underestimate what can be achieved and further harm the mass adoption of EVs vehicles by spreading uncertainty and confusion.’

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said it is witnessing lower consumer demand for new EVs, though.

‘While electric car registrations continue to increase, the majority of the growth is in the fleet and company car markets, where big government incentives for going electric remain in place.

‘Our own data suggests that interest in electric cars among private buyers has actually waned in the last 12 months, with this due to the rising cost of living and concerns around range and charging availability,’ he said.

‘Manufacturers have responded by significantly increasing electric car discounts since the start of the year.

‘But as EV uptake increases, so must the availability of public charging infrastructure, which is still lacking in many areas of the UK.’

KPMG’s head of UK automotive, Richard Peberdy, remarked consumers are ‘trading down’ brands for their next car.

‘New car demand remains healthy, particularly considering the higher cost of living and increased cost to car finance,’ he said. ‘That higher cost is causing some consumers to have to reassess brands and models and trade down, but overall consumer car sales levels so far this year are up on last – with both electric and hybrids growing market share.’

Meanwhile, Lisa Watson, director of sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said: ‘With plans for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone set to press ahead, and with other cities in the UK likely to introduce similar schemes, it will be interesting to see if this has an effect on new registrations.

‘Although our research found that two in three (66 per cent) dealers said customers are being more cautious about purchasing vehicles, so the introduction of new schemes may make a new purchase a necessity.’

Mark Oakley, director of AA Cars, commented: ‘The continued increase in sales mirrors the rebound in UK car production, which has also recorded five successive months of growth.’

He added: ‘With UK production of EVs reaching a record 170,000 units in the first half of the year, supply is rapidly increasing but more needs to be done to accelerate their take-up. Prices for used EVs on the AA Cars website are falling, and this may entice more drivers to consider a second-hand electric vehicle for their next car.’

This story was first published at 07:31 on August 4. Updated: 09:30

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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