There were 87,226 new cars registered across the UK in August compared with 92,573 during the same month in 2019, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Registrations during the first eight months of the year are down 39.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2019.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The decline is disappointing, following some brief optimism in July. However, given August is typically one the new car market’s quietest months, it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from these figures alone.
“With the all-important plate change month, September is likely to provide a better barometer. As the nation takes steps to return to normality, protecting consumer confidence will be critical to driving a recovery.”
The automotive industry has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with year-on-year registrations down 97.3 per cent in April, 89 per cent in May and 34.9 per cent in June.
July saw an 11.3 per cent increase, which was attributed to pent-up demand during lockdown and special offers.
Karen Hilton, chief commercial officer at Heycar, said: “August has always been a quieter month for new car sales as we lead up to the September plate change.
“The outlook however, remains positive. Pent-up demand continues to power the recovery in the used car market and as in the housing market, consumer confidence is returning. There is an appetite to spend, especially among consumers who may have built up some savings during lockdown and look to make expensive purchases like a car.”
Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: “August is recognised as being a slow month, so we shouldn’t assume the market is going into reverse.
“And hopefully the new 70 reg plate will boost sales throughout September at a time when the car industry is learning to adapt to a difficult post-lockdown environment.
“Many dealers we work with are seeing a major influx of buyers coming through the doors this week who are intent on purchasing, and some in the industry are even predicting that September could be the biggest new car sales month on record.”
James Fairclough, chief executive of AA Cars, added: “September’s figures will give a more complete picture of how the new car market performed in the third quarter of the year, and may provide an insight into what we can expect for the remainder of 2020 too.
“Meanwhile there are signs in the used car market that consumer demand remains high. We have seen searches on the AA Cars platform continue to rise, and viewings of cars on our website were nearly 9 per cent higher in August than they were in July.”