The UK new car market shrank by more than a fifth in August amid ongoing supply issues caused by the global microchip shortage. That’s according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which this week released the latest new car registration figures.

The data shows just over 68,000 new cars were registered in the UK last month, down from more than 87,000 in the same month last year. That’s a 22-percent drop, and it marks the sector’s weakest August performance since August 2013. It’s also down 7.6 percent compared with the average performance recorded over the past decade.

In the eyes of the SMMT, the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been held back due to the global shortage of semiconductors. However, the industry body confesses this problem is, in itself, born of the pandemic.

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Despite this, there was a surge in demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, with demand for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) up 32 percent compared with August last year. Demand for hybrid cars was even higher, with registrations of conventional ‘self-charging’ hybrids up 46 percent, while plug-in hybrid registrations rose by a massive 72 percent.

In August, BEVs made up 8.4 percent of the new car market, while hybrids comprised 8.7 percent of all new car registrations. Plug-in hybrids made up ‘just’ 6.6 percent of registrations, but that’s still twice the market share seen in the same month last year.

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That growth in demand for eco-friendly vehicles has helped the UK’s car dealers and manufacturers register more than 1.1 million new cars during the first eight months of 2021. Over the same period last year, just over 915,000 cars had been delivered, 20.3 percent fewer.

Nevertheless, the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said the result was a disappointment for the industry.

“While August is normally one of the quietest months for UK new car registrations these figures are still disappointing, albeit not wholly surprising,” he said. “The global shortage of semiconductors has affected UK, and indeed global, car production volumes so new car registrations will inevitably be undermined. Government can help by continuing the supportive Covid measures in place currently, especially the furlough scheme which has proven invaluable to so many businesses.

“As we enter the important September plate-change month with an ever-increasing range of electrified models and attractive deals, buyers in the market for the new 71 plate can be reassured manufacturers are doing all they can to ensure prompt deliveries.”

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