New car registrations fell in July amid supply shortages and the ‘pingdemic’, according to new figures released this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows 123,296 new cars were registered last month, making last month the sector’s worst July in over 20 years.

That figure represents a 29.5-percent drop in sales compared with the same month last year, although the SMMT concedes July 2020 sales were artificially high after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. It was the first full month of operation for showrooms after the first lockdown, which began in late March.

Perhaps a more accurate comparison can be made with the July average for the 10 years from 2010 to 2019, against which last month’s figures were down 22.3 percent. The SMMT says that’s a result of the ongoing semiconductor shortage, which has impacted supply, and the ‘pingdemic’, which is impacting dealers, manufacturers and even customers as people are told to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus.

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The news isn’t all bad, though, as the registrations remain up on last year. Over the first seven months of 2020, around 830,000 new cars were registered, but that figure rose to more than a million during the same period in 2021 – an increase of around 25 percent.

At the same time, the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles has also grown, with sales up in July. Electric vehicles (EVs) made up just 4.7 percent of the market in July 2020, but that rose to nine percent in July 2021. By the same token, the plug-in hybrid market share rose from 4.3 percent to eight percent, while so-called ‘self-charging’ hybrids made up almost 12 percent of the market last month – up from 7.3 percent in July last year.

“The automotive sector continues to battle against shortages of semiconductors and staff, which is throttling our ability to translate a strengthening economic outlook into a full recovery,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “The next few weeks will see changes to self-isolation policies which will hopefully help those companies across the industry dealing with staff absences, but the semiconductor shortage is likely to remain an issue until at least the rest of the year. As a result, we have downgraded the market outlook slightly for 2021.

“The bright spot, however, remains the increasing demand for electrified vehicles as consumers respond in ever greater numbers to these new technologies, driven by increased product choice, fiscal and financial incentives and an enjoyable driving experience.”