October saw UK new car registrations fall by almost a quarter according to new figures released this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows new car sales were down by 24.6 percent amid ongoing supply issues caused by the global microchip shortage.

The SMMT data revealed more than 106,000 new passenger cars were registered in the UK last month, but that was still a considerable reduction compared with the same month last year. Worse, the performance marked the worst October for new car sales since 1991.

As a result, the first 10 months of 2021 have seen 1.42 million new cars hit UK roads – up 2.8 percent on the 1.38 million registered during the same period in 2020. However, with the global chip shortage showing no signs of let-up, just 1.66 million new cars are expected to be registered this year. That would be an increase of 1.9 percent on 2020, but a long way behind the 2019, pre-pandemic result of 2.3 million.

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There was some good news to be found in the plug-in and electric car market, however, with sales remaining stable despite the overall drop in demand. In October alone, electric vehicle registrations were up 73 percent on the same month last year, and accounted for 15.2 percent of the market overall.

After that result, electric car sales have made up 9.9 percent of all new car sales in 2021, with more than 141,000 vehicles registered. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, meanwhile, make up 6.7 percent of registrations, with sales up by around 90 percent compared with the first 10 months of 2020.

“The current performance reflects the challenging supply constraints,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, “with the industry battling against semiconductor shortages and increasingly strong economic headwinds as inflation rises, taxes increase and consumer confidence has weakened. Electrified vehicles, however, continue to buck the trend, with almost one in six new cars registered this year capable of zero-emission motoring, growth that is fundamental to the UK’s ability to hit its net zero targets.

“With next year looking brighter, and even more new models expected, the continuation of this transition will depend on the preservation of incentives that overcome the affordability barrier, and the ability of the public and private sectors to increase public on street charging to allay EV driver concerns.”

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