One million new cars sold in first half of year - but private sales fall

For the first time since the pandemic a million cars were sold in the first half of a year, according to industry data.

But the numbers are still well below the 2019 pre-pandemic year sales and demand from individual private buyers has collapsed amid a cost of living crisis, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show.

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In the first six months of 2024 - 1,006,763 new cars have been registered. While the sum is 6% higher than the previous year it's still down 20.7% on 2019 registrations.

The overall new car market grew by 1.1% year-on-year.

Corporate dominance

Growth only came in June because of companies buying cars for their business. Fleet purchases rose 14.2% while non-corporate retail demand continued to fall - for the ninth month in a row.

Retail sales accounted for just four in 10 new registrations last month.

The SMMT said 67,625 new cars were registered by private consumers in June - down 15.3% from 79,798 during the same month last year.

"The private consumer market continues to shrink against a difficult economic backdrop, but with the right policies in place, the next government can re-energise the market and deliver a faster, fairer zero-emission transition," SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said.

Electric vehicles

UK carmakers are legally mandated to have electric vehicles (EV) make up 22% of sales by this year.

Uptake of electric cars - as opposed to hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles - has remained at 16% in 2024 so far, suggesting the legal obligation will be missed and carmakers could face financial penalties.

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Thursday's figures also demonstrate the reliance on electric fleet vehicles in reaching EV sales targets, with the industry body saying the ability for manufacturers to meet the 22% target relies on those fleet purchases.

Take up of hybrid vehicles, rather than fully battery-powered cars, has been strong and they make up a combined 36.5% of new registrations.

"All parties are agreed on the need to cut carbon and replacing older fossil fuel-based technologies with new electrified powertrains is the essential step to achieving that goal," Mr Hawes said.