Registrations were down by almost seven percent last month.

Sales of new cars in Britain continued to fall last month, with a leading industry body blaming the decline on waning “buyer confidence”.

According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 143,251 new cars were registered last month - down 6.9 percent on the same month in 2018, which saw 10,000 more vehicles registered. It’s the eighth month of decline this year.

As a result, the first 10 months of 2019 have seen just over 2 million new cars registered, but that’s almost 60,000 fewer than during the same period last year. That’s a reduction of almost three percent.

Salesperson shaking hands with customer in dealership showroom

Over the year, this drop in demand has largely been driven by a dwindling private buyer market, which accounted for 45 percent of all registrations last year. This year, though, demand is down by more than three percent. In contrast, demand from the fleet sector, which makes up more than half of all registrations, is up slightly on last year’s tally, albeit by a mere 0.1 percent.

There is some good news hiding in the figures, though, with sales of electric and hybrid cars rising steadily. Last month saw more than 3,000 electric cars registered, alongside a similar number of plug-in hybrids and almost 8,000 conventional hybrids. Around 5,000 mild hybrids were registered, too.

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and plug-in hybrid

In comparison, last October saw just 1,256 electric cars registered and little more than 6,000 hybrids. Sales of plug-in hybrids were similar, though, as that market has stagnated since the effective removal of the government’s Plug-In Car Grant for plug-in hybrids last year.

Those stories are consistent with the figures we’ve seen throughout the year. Sales of diesels and plug-in hybrids are falling, but electric car sales have more than doubled and hybrids have shown significant growth, too. However, petrol power is taking up most of the slack, now accounting for more than 65 percent of the new car market. Battery electric vehicles now make up just 1.4 percent of all new car registrations.

Jaguar I-PACE

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the increasing interest in so-called alternatively fuelled vehicles, such as electric and hybrid cars, was encouraging, but the market needed an uplift in consumer confidence.

“The growth in alternatively fuelled cars is very welcome, showing increasing buyer appetite for these new technologies,” he said. “The overall market remains tough, however, with October now the year’s eighth month of decline and in need of an injection of confidence. Whether the general election delivers a ‘bounce’ to the economy remains to be seen but, with attractive deals and an ever-greater choice of low-, ultra-low and zero-emission models arriving in the UK’s showrooms, consumers have every incentive to consider buying a new car.”