Weakest ‘new plate’ September for UK car industry

New car registrations were down 4.4% in September 2020, making it the weakest September this century.

Just 328,041 cars were registered, compared with 343,255 in the same month last year and 15.8% lower than the 10-year average of around 390,000 units for the month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported.

It follows already low volumes recorded in September 2018 and 2019, when regulatory changes surrounding a new emissions testing regime delayed vehicle certification and caused supply problems across Europe. Some brands that were hit by these factors saw substantial growth in September 2020, but total registrations fell well short of previous years, the industry body said.

Private registrations declined by 1.1% year-on-year while demand from business was down 5.8%, with around 10,000 fewer cars joining larger fleets.

Ongoing challenges to the industry include Brexit uncertainty and the threat of tariffs; the huge investment needed to enable the shift towards zero emission-capable vehicles; and the forthcoming end of the UK Government’s Covid-19 furlough scheme.

Commenting on the monthly figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “During a torrid year, the automotive industry has demonstrated incredible resilience, but this is not a recovery.

“Despite the boost of a new registration plate, new model introductions and attractive offers, this is still the poorest September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999. Unless the pandemic is controlled and economy-wide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed.”