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NEW car registrations plummeted again last month recording the weakest September since 1998 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Registration of  215,312 cars during the month represented a fall of 34.4% on September 2020, when pandemic restrictions were significantly curtailing economic activity. September is typically the second busiest month of the year for the industry, but with the ongoing shortage of semiconductors impacting vehicle availability, the 2021 performance was down some 44.7% on the pre-pandemic ten-year average.

Good news, however, for battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake. With a market share of 15.2%, 32,721 BEVs enjoyed their best month yet reflecting the wide range of models now available and growing consumer appetite. The September performance was just over 5,000 shy of the total number registered during the whole of 2019.

Meryem Brassington, electrification propositions lead at Lex Autolease said: “The rise of EV registrations are now at a UK high, with battery and hybrid vehicles now accounting for 33 percent of the new car market – a major boost as we work towards the 2030 ICE ban deadline.

“The recent fuel shortage will only have further heightened awareness of the importance of transitioning to an electric future. As EVs continue to rise in popularity, industry must work collaboratively to ensure there isn’t a tipping point of demand outstripping supply.”

Jamie Hamilton, automotive director and head of electric vehicles at Deloitte, said that the new plate months should traditionally boost sales, and many had put August’s already disappointing lull down to typical consumer behaviour, holding out for the new 71 plate.

He added: “Whilst demand for new cars remains strong amongst consumers, the latest figures are reflective of the deepening production challenges the industry faces throughout its supply chain.

“Elsewhere, parallel supply chain issues in getting fuel to forecourts in the past few weeks has had the unsurprising consequence of amplifying interest in electric vehicles. EVs gained further market share this month, rising significantly to 15.2% from 10.9% in August. This compares to 2.2% in September 2019; the nearest pre-pandemic comparable.

“Whilst it’s too soon to see any immediate impact of the petrol and diesel shortage on EV sales, the inconvenience of long queues and empty pumps has jump-started many motorists to explore the switch to electric.

“With battery electric vehicles outpacing even plug-in hybrid this month, this demonstrates a level of consumer confidence that the charging infrastructure will be in place. However, gaps still remain and a more equitable rollout of public charging points would ensure EVs are also accessible to those households without off-street parking.

“Petrol and diesel shortages may have also inadvertently created some charge anxiety, so ensuring more visible charging points will only strengthen public confidence in EV feasibility.”

Karen Johnson, Head of Retail and Wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “September is a key month in the UK vehicle calendar, as the release of a new number plate usually boosts sales across the board – but not in 2021. This latest set of results reflects the huge disappointment of consumers at forecourts around the country, as new registrations fell 22% versus 2020 and consumers are required to wait patiently for delivery in the months to come.

“Many dealers have been impacted by shortages in the production of new cars, particularly from big-name European brands. Whilst there is plenty of optimism about the desire to purchase new cars, supply simply isn’t meeting consumer demand. Dealers need to see this ramp up rapidly.”