UK new car sales were down by more than a fifth in May as “supply constraints” limited the number of vehicles available. That’s according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which says “ongoing global parts shortages” are still impacting the UK’s car industry.

The SMMT’s data shows just under 125,000 new cars were registered in the UK during the course of May, down 20.6 percent on the same month in 2021. The result makes last month the second-weakest May for new car sales in three decades. Compared with pre-pandemic 2019, May’s sales were down by almost a third (32.3 percent).

According to the SMMT, the decline is down to the ongoing supply chain issues facing the industry. The organisation claims manufacturers have “strong order books”, but simply can’t build the cars due to the global chip shortage and other component shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

Mercedes-Benz Dealer

Despite the challenges, electric car sales continue to increase, with almost 15,500 new electric cars registered last month alone. That’s an increase of 17.7 percent compared with May last year, and it took electric vehicles’ market share to 12.4 percent. Nevertheless, petrol-powered cars remain the most popular choices, with more than 75,000 petrol and mild-hybrid petrol vehicles registered in May.

Over the first five months of 2022, just over 661,000 new cars have been registered in the UK, down 8.7 percent compared with the same period last year. And it should be remembered that the first few months of 2021 saw dealerships close their doors to all but click-and-collect customers as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Vauxhall dealership forecourt London

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the latest figures betrayed a “challenging” month for the industry, but singled out growth in electric car sales as a “bright spot”. However, he said the infrastructure needed to keep up with sales if electric vehicle sales are to flourish.

“In yet another challenging month for the new car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots,” he said. “To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric. This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars.

“Delivering on ‘Net Zero’ means renewing the vehicles on our roads at pace but, with rising inflation and a squeeze on household incomes, this will be increasingly difficult unless businesses and private buyers have the confidence and encouragement to do so.”