Business

UK new car sales rise in September

Car lot Image copyright Christopher Furlong

UK new car sales rose in September, helped by strong purchases from fleet buyers and the new 66 number plate.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 469,696 new cars were registered in the month, a rise of 1.6% from 462,517 last year.

It is the highest sales total for September on record, but the figures also showed sales to private motorists fell for the sixth month in a row.

The best-selling new car in September was the Ford Fiesta.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: "September is always one of the biggest months for Britain's new car market.

"The new 66-plate, combined with a diverse range of exciting new models featuring the latest technology, has certainly helped draw buyers into showrooms."

Uncertainty

The total number of cars registered so far this year has now reached 2.15 million, according to the SMMT. Fleet sales continued to drive growth, climbing 7.3% year on year in September.

But registrations to private motorists slipped by 1.7%, the sixth consecutive month of decline.

This followed "record levels of growth in 2015", the SMMT cautioned. But Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, warned consumers were "recoiling" from making big-ticket purchases due to uncertainty about the economy.

"Car manufacturers also are beginning to raise prices in response to sterling's depreciation," he added.

"In addition, much of the pent-up demand from households that put off car purchases during the recession also has now been satiated.

"As such, with growth in households' real incomes set to slow sharply, as inflation revives and firms pause on hiring, and loan rates now at a floor, we expect [private] car sales to continue to fall over the next year."


The most popular new cars this year

  • Ford Fiesta
  • Vauxhall Corsa
  • Ford Focus
  • Volkswagen Golf
  • Nissan Qashqai

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders


'Consumer appetite'

Mr Hawes also said the car industry continued to face uncertainty.

"Business and consumers place September orders many months in advance," he said.

"So the ability of the market to maintain this record level of demand will depend on the ability of government to overcome political uncertainty and safeguard the conditions that underpin consumer appetite."

In September, Mr Hawes warned that the success of the UK motor industry could be "jeopardised" if the UK left the single market following Brexit.

According to the SMMT data, the growth in registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles continued to outpace the market in September, climbing 32.6% year on year. However, their market share remained small at 3.4%.

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