UK new car sales fall to one of the worst levels in 30 years – down by 20 percent

Iain Duncan Smith demands urgent action on cost of living crisis

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The sales of new cars in the UK have hit one of the worst points in 30 years. The cost of living crisis, the raging inflation, and semiconductor shortages have all had a massive impact on the struggling industry.

The number of new UK registrations fell by over 20 percent in May compared to last year.

This in turn made May’s figures the second-lowest in 30 years.

The number of new cars registered in the UK stood at 124,400 last month.

The data was provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a lobby group.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “In yet another challenging month for the new car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots.

“To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric.

“This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars.”

Only May 2020 – when the UK was in a coronavirus lockdown – was worse for the industry.

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The SMMT attributed the decline to shortages of components which are reducing vehicle availability “despite demand”.

Registrations of pure electric cars bucked the overall trend last month, with a 17.7 percent year-on-year increase.

Electrified vehicles such as pure electrics, plug-in hybrids, and hybrids accounted for three out of 10 new cars in May.

Jon Lawes, managing director at Novuna Vehicle Solutions, added: “Electric vehicles have been flying off production lines this year, so much so that new EV registrations still seem highly likely to reach parity with petrol and diesel vehicles in a matter of months.

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“It’s a psychologically important tipping point, and one we are accelerating towards so quickly because prolonged supply chain challenges are strangling production across the industry, causing manufacturers to prioritise the supply of EVs in the face of healthy demand.

“Supply is constrained on both sides of the market, but we’ve yet to see recently emerging fears around battery supply do much to curtail the production of EVs, and certainly not to the same extent as across the rest of the industry.

“We’re very much in a sellers’ market, which points to further price rises, and longer waiting lists which means consumers and commercial fleet operators need to plan well ahead and consider extending existing leasing contracts to cover the delay in new vehicle deliveries.”

Chris Knight, automotive partner at KPMG UK, also warned that the cost of living crisis could pose a fresh threat to the UK’s weak car industry.

He said: “New car demand remains robust, with long wait times for many models, however, a rising cost of living poses questions for the UK automotive industry for the rest of 2022.

“How many consumers delay purchasing a vehicle altogether is a key question, but so is where those wishing to buy lower-price new cars turn in a market where such models are in lower supply and have long waits.”

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