New car sales were down by 1.6 per cent in August despite numbers being boosted by a flood of pre-registrations by dealers to beat an emissions deadine – and a flood of long-awaited deliveries of Tesla’s Model 3.
Battery electric vehicle sales ‘surged’ in the month, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, with registrations quadrupling on the back of the arrival of Tesla’s most affordable car yet, which was unofficially the third most popular model in August.
Listed as ‘other’ in the standings, due to Tesla not revealing full sales data to the SMMT, more than 2,000 were registered last month, which was more than traditional UK favourites like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa.
Tesla injection: First deliveries of the long anticipated Tesla Model 3 have been arriving in the UK since the end of June. It was the third most registered new car in August, figures suggest
A total of 92,573 new models were registered for the UK in August, which is typically one of the quietest months for dealers ahead of the new number plates – and associated deals – that arrive in September.
Registrations were down by 1,521 cars compared to the same month last year, though this would have been significantly lower if dealers hadn’t pre-registered large volumes of motors in the final days of August.
This is due to a deadline for the sale of models that are not compliant with the new emissions test cycle introduced last year.
The WLTP (World Light vehicle Test Procedure) cycle came into force in September 2018, though manufacturers were given a 12-month allowance to continue selling a proportion of cars as ‘new’ that did not meet the new regulation.
With that window closing at the end of August, dealers have been forced to pre-register the remaining stock of these models that will now be sold as ‘nearly new’ cars.
The deadline for dealers to sell new models that have not been through the current type approval test for vehicles closed at the end of August, resulting in a surge of pre-registrations
While pre-registrations – when a dealer registers a new car in their name and sell it as a ‘nearly new’ second-hand vehicle – were up, total registrations were down year-on-year by 1.6%
Consumers should be able to find a good deal of a 19-plate car in September as dealers look to shift their remaining stock
This flood of pre-reg vehicles has resulted in a shift in the the top 10 models table for August compared to the rest of the year, as dealers – predominantly those representing German brands – had to register their unsold non-compliant stock.
What this does mean for consumers is that there should be significant discounts available from dealers this month on 19-plate cars as they attempt to clear them from forecourts.
Tesla Model 3 is almost entirely responsible for surge in EV registrations
One other standout from the 10 most popular new cars list for last month was Tesla’s Model 3, which was – unofficially – the third most commonly registered vehicle in August.
It is listed in the ranking as ‘other’ because Tesla withholds details of which models it has sold in the UK and doesn’t split its sales figures by country.
This is unheard of for an electric vehicle and the first time a car emitting no exhaust emissions has been in the top 10 most registered models for a single month.
While it’s an outstanding achievement for any pure electric car, it hasn’t come as a huge surprise given that the first batch of UK models have been arriving since the end of June.
Prices start from £36,490 for the electric American saloon and go as high as £49,140 for a range-topping model.
There is a huge backlog of orders for the zero-emission vehicle in the UK and around the world, which date back more than two years for the most eager customers.
It appears that 2,082 were registered last month, though that’s almost half as many as the UK’s long-standing favourite car, the Ford Fiesta, which was again the most popular model.
Tesla doesn’t supply sales figures to the SMMT, but it has been unofficially confirmed that the ‘Other’ listing seen here is the Model 3
Some UK buyers have had orders placed on the new ‘affordable’ Tesla for over 2 years. With cars now arriving on British shores, registrations have soared, making it more popular than the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa in August
This pushed battery electric registrations 378 per cent higher than in August 2018, while conventional hybrid (non plug-in models) sales were also up 36 per cent.
Plug-in hybrids didn’t have the same success, with sales down 72 per cent.
This is most likely down to the government’s decision to terminate grants for new plug-in hybrid models at the end of last year, which had previously provided a subsidy of £2,500 towards the purchase of one.
Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive, said it was ‘great to see consumers respond to the massive industry investment made over many years’ in low emission models, though he failed to acknowledge that the Model 3 accounted for two thirds (66 per cent) of all battery electric car registrations last year.
In fact, without the first stock of Tesla’s arriving last month there would have been just 1,065 battery electric vehicle registrations, which would have been a year-on-year increase of a not-as-significant 62 per cent.
‘While this is encouraging, these figures also show the scale of the challenge ahead,’ Hawes added.
‘It’s a long road to zero and while manufacturers can deliver the technology, they can’t dictate the pace of uptake.
‘To support a smooth transition and deliver environmental gains now, we need a long-term government commitment to measures that give consumers confidence to invest in the latest technologies that best suit their needs.’
While the SMMT put a positive spin on registrations of electric cars, there was little it could do to lighten the mood when it came to diesel sales.
Registrations of the under-fire fuel type dropped for the 29th consecutive month in August, plummeting another 12 per cent. Petrol sales grew by one per cent, the SMMT figures showed.
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