Car industry suffers weakest March since 1998

Just 243,479 new cars were registered last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

Neil Lancefield
Tuesday 05 April 2022 11:27
The UK’s automotive industry suffered its worst March for new car sales since 1998, according to new figures (Peter Byrne/PA)
The UK’s automotive industry suffered its worst March for new car sales since 1998, according to new figures (Peter Byrne/PA)

The UK’s automotive industry suffered its worst March for new car sales since 1998, according to new figures.

Just 243,479 new cars were registered last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

That is down 14.3% compared with March 2021.

It is the lowest March total since 1998, which was prior to the introduction of new number plates every March and September.

(PA Graphics)

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described the figures as “deeply disappointing”, with March crucial for the industry because it is normally the busiest month of the year as buyers demand the latest number plate.

He said: “While demand remains robust, this decline illustrates the severity of the global semiconductor shortage, as manufacturers strive to deliver the latest, lowest emission vehicles to eagerly awaiting customers.

“Placing orders now will be beneficial for those looking to take advantage of incentives and lower running costs for electric vehicles, especially as the Ukraine crisis could affect supply still further.

“With increasing household and business costs, Government must do all it can to support consumers so that the growth of electric vehicles can be sustained and the UK’s ambitious net zero timetable delivered.”

(PA Graphics)

The UK has pledged to reach net zero for carbon emissions by 2050.

The help achieve this, sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from 2030.

Last month the Department for Transport announced a plan to increase the number of public electric vehicle chargepoints in the UK from 30,000 to 300,000 by that date.

A record 64,165 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in March.

That is up 78.7% on the same month in 2021, taking a 16.1% market share.

More BEVs were registered last month than during the whole of 2019.

Jim Holder, editorial director of magazine and website What Car?, said: “While it is evident and welcome that demand for low and zero emissions vehicles is growing at a fast pace, it is also clear that the uptake could be far greater if supply issues caused by the semiconductor computer chip shortage, and exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, weren’t having such a devastating impact on sales figures.

“Recent hikes in energy prices and general costs of living are also posing a challenge.”

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