New car demand gathers pace but trails pre-pandemic highs by a third: reaction

New car sales crept higher last month compared with lockdown-hit November 2020 but remain well down on pre-pandemic highs amid continued supply shortages.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 115,706 new cars were registered across the UK during November, a rise of 1.7 per cent on the same month last year.

Although that halts four consecutive months of year-on-year decline, the total was 31.3 per cent down on the pre-pandemic, five-year November average.

Battery electric vehicles represented nearly a fifth of the new car market last month.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 115,706 new cars were registered across the UK during November, a rise of 1.7 per cent on the same month last year. following four months of declines. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “What looks like a positive performance belies the underlying weakness of the market.

“Demand is there, with a slew of new, increasingly electrified, models launched but the global shortage of semiconductors continues to bedevil production and therefore new car registrations.

“The industry is working flat out to overcome these issues and fulfil orders, but disruption is likely to last into next year, compounding the need for customers to place orders early.

“The continued acceleration of electrified vehicle registrations is good for the industry, the consumer and the environment but, with the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution, irrespective of where they live,” he added.

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The Mini was the best-selling model last month while Vauxhall’s Corsa takes the number one slot in the year to date.

James Fairclough, chief executive at AA Cars, said: “After four miserable months that the motor industry would rather forget, the tide is finally turning for new car sales.

“Forecourts are gradually getting busier and many dealers are working overtime to get cars to customers who have already placed orders. But the patchy supply of new vehicles continues to peg back the number of sales dealers can make.

“Stock levels of certain models are so low that some dealers are even struggling to offer test drives, let alone fulfil customer orders in anything less than several weeks.

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“The one silver lining is that the problem is the lack of vehicle supply rather than the lack of customer demand. But the cloud is that the supply issues could get worse before they get better.”

Alex Buttle, co-founder of used car marketplace Motorway.co.uk, noted: “November new car sales were never likely to deviate from the trend we’ve seen throughout 2021, although EV and plug-in sales continue to be a huge positive amongst all the gloom.

“Lack of supply is still a major bottleneck for the new car industry, with global supply chain issues persisting and microchip shortages unresolved.”

Seán Kemple, managing director of Close Brothers Motor Finance, added: “In the run up to Christmas, demand for new cars remains high but stock limitations are pushing buyers to second-hand vehicles instead.

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“While this has opened up opportunities for the used market, it’s under equal pressure to stock used forecourts to meet new levels of demand. This cycle is likely to continue well into 2022.”

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