In August, the UK new car market enjoyed its first month of year-on-year growth since February, according to new figures released this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed almost 69,000 new cars were registered last month, up by just over one percent compared with the same month last year.

A total of 68,858 new cars were registered in the UK last month, an increase of 1.2 percent compared with August 2021. It’s the first time the market has recorded year-on-year growth since February, thanks in part to supply issues caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The growth was largely fuelled by an uplift in sales of electric cars, with more than 10,000 examples registered last month. That’s a 35-percent increase compared with August 2021, when fewer than 7,500 new electric cars hit the roads of the UK.

2023 MG MG4 EV in UK specification exterior front three-quarter view

The growth, however small, will be welcome news for manufacturers stifled by supply shortages in recent months, especially as August is typically the second-quietest month of the year as buyers wait for the new number plate that arrives on September 1. However, despite the positivity, the SMMT pointed out the growth was small and August 2021 was the worst August for the market since 2013.

And although there were positives to be taken from August, it did not help redress the balance in a year that has largely been very difficult for car makers and dealers. During the first eight months of the year, just over 983,000 new cars have been registered – down 10.7 percent compared with the same period last year. And that figure is down 35.3 percent compared with the first eight months of 2019 – the last full year before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

The SMMT has welcomed last month’s results, but warned that businesses face a difficult time in the coming months, thanks to the rising cost of energy and ongoing supply issues. The organisation said September’s figures would be the acid test for an industry that normally enjoys massive sales following the plate change.

“August’s new car market growth is welcome, but marginal during a low volume month,” said the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes. “Spiralling energy costs and inflation on top of sustained supply chain challenges are piling even more pressure on the automotive industry’s post-pandemic recovery, and we urgently need the new Prime Minister to tackle these challenges and restore confidence and sustainable growth. With September traditionally a bumper time for new car uptake, the next month will be the true barometer of industry recovery as it accelerates the transition to zero emission mobility despite the myriad challenges.”

2022 Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo (UK Spec)