The UK new car market enjoyed a “bumper” month in September as registrations rose for the second successive month, according to new figures. Data released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows more than 225,000 new cars hit the road last month, up 4.6 percent compared with the same month last year.

September is normally the second-biggest month of the year for car dealers as the second of two number plate changes is introduced. The arrival of the new ‘72’ plate on September 1 clearly brought some demand back into the market, but growth has to be viewed in context.

According to the SMMT, last September was the weakest for the industry since 1998, but more than 215,000 new cars were still registered. Although last month saw that figure increase by more than four percent, it was still down by more than 34 percent compared with the same month in pre-pandemic 2019.

New cars at dealer showroom

So far this year, results have been mixed. Despite two successive months of growth in August and September, just over 1.2 million new cars have been registered during the first nine months of the year. That’s down by more than eight percent compared with the 1.3 million registered during the same period in 2021.

That said, electric car registrations have consistently increased, and a 16.5-percent year-on-year uplift in sales during September has seen registrations rise by more than 40 percent in the first nine months of 2022. So far this year, more than 175,000 new electric cars have hit the roads of the UK, up from 125,000 during the same part of 2021.

So far in 2022, electric cars have accounted for more than 14 percent of all new cars sold on these shores. Combine those figures with previous years and sales of plug-in hybrid cars, which now make up more than six percent of all new registrations, and the SMMT says more than one million plug-in vehicles have now been registered in the UK.

“September has seen Britain’s millionth [plug-in] car reach the road – an important milestone in the shift to zero emission mobility,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Battery electric vehicles make up but a small fraction of cars on the road, so we need to ensure every lever is pulled to encourage motorists to make the shift if our green goals are to be met.

“The overall market remains weak, however, as supply chain issues continue to constrain model availability. Whilst the industry is working hard to address these issues, the long-term recovery of the market also depends on robust consumer confidence and economic stability.”