New car sales stumble as buyers prepare for September spree

August new car registrations fell 5.8 percent in a traditionally quiet month ahead of the key ’70-plate’ registration month of September

2020 Kia Niro

New car registrations were down 5.8 percent in August as buyers appeared to hold off their purchases ahead of the key 70-plate September registration change.

August is traditionally the quietest month of the year and in 2020, just over 87,000 new cars were registered.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that although private buyers declined only marginally, there were bigger falls in the fleet and business car sectors.

Registrations of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, however, were up almost 75 percent, taking a 16.1 percent market share.

Pure electric cars alone took a 6.4 percent market share in August, up 77.6 percent.

In contrast, the downfall of diesel continued, with the fuel accounting for less than 20 percent of overall new car registrations.

“The decline is disappointing, following some brief optimism in July,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“However… it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone. With the all-important plate change month just around the corner, September is likely to prove a better barometer.”

Overall UK new car registrations are down 39.7 percent year to date. This equates to around 600,000 fewer new cars sold so far during 2020.

Top 10 best-selling new cars: August 2020

Ford Puma 2020

The Ford Fiesta returned to the top of the UK registrations chart in August, with a clear lead over the next-best Volkswagen Golf.

The Vauxhall Corsa, after a few months in top spot, fell back to fifth place.

There were two surprises in the top 10 – the first appearance of the all-new Ford Puma SUV, and the Kia Niro hybrid emerging in 10th place, just 17 registrations behind the Ford Kuga.

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Volkswagen Golf

3: Ford Focus

4: Ford Puma

5: Vauxhall Corsa

6: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

7: Volkswagen Tiguan

8: Volkswagen Polo

9: Ford Kuga

10: Kia Niro


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Richard Aucock
I'm director at Motoring Research. I run a bit, cycle a bit, have a huge love for the automotive industry.


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