The UK new car market slumped by more than 15 percent last month amid ongoing issues with supply chains. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK’s car makers and dealers, the result has caused a noticeable reduction in the sales forecast for 2022.

The SMMT’s latest figures show just over 119,000 new cars were registered last month, down 15.8 percent compared with April last year. That’s despite the fact showrooms were closed for the first few days of April 2021 thanks to the lockdown restrictions in place across the country. Compared with pre-Covid April 2019, sales were down by more than a quarter (26 percent).

According to the SMMT, April’s decline was driven primarily by a 33.3-percent decrease in large fleet registrations, with manufacturers choosing to prioritise private consumers. As a result, the private segment of the market saw sales increase by 4.8 percent, while smaller business registrations grew by 15.4 percent.

Smiling young couple buying a car at dealership

Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) also rose, with almost 13,000 new electric cars hitting the road last month – up 40 percent compared with the same month last year. That took electric cars’ market share up from 6.5 percent in April 2021 to 10.8 percent last month.

At the same time, registrations of hybrid vehicles also rose, up by more than 18 percent, while diesel sales continue to decline. Just 12,645 diesels (including diesel mild-hybrids) were registered last month, giving the fuel a similar share of the market to electric vehicles.

Over the first four months of 2022, the SMMT data shows 536,727 new cars have been registered – a decrease of 5.4 percent compared with the same period in 2021. Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, however, sales are down 37.7 percent over the first third of 2022. The SMMT had expected 1.89 million new cars to be registered in 2022, but that estimate has now been revised down to 1.72 million.

Mercedes-Benz Dealer

The SMMT is laying the blame for this poor performance squarely at the door of the global semiconductor shortage, as well as supply chain issues caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The organisation’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, also warned of “headwinds”, including rising energy and fuel costs, and said the industry needed support from government to help customers transition to greener vehicles.

“The worldwide semiconductor shortage continues to drag down the market, with global geopolitical issues threatening to undermine both supply and demand in the coming months,” said Hawes.

“Manufacturers are doing everything they can to deliver the latest low and zero emission vehicles, and those considering purchase should look to place their orders now to benefit from incentives, low interest rates and reduced running costs. Accelerating the transformation of the new car market and the carbon savings demanded of road transport in such difficult times requires not just the resolution of supply issues, however, but a broader package of measures that encourages customer demand and addresses obstacles, the biggest of which remains charging anxiety.”