UK new car registrations rose for the first time this year, by 11.3 per cent in July, according to figures published this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Some 174,887 cars were registered in July 2020 as dealerships across the UK opened for their first full month of trading since February.
Pent-up demand and special offers led to a reprieve for the sector, but overall registrations are still down by 41.9 per cent or 598,054 units year-to-date.
Despite the increase in July, SMMT’s full year outlook is for a 30 per cent decline in registrations, representing more than £20 billion of lost sales.
Private demand saw the most significant growth with a 20.4 per cent increase in registrations, primarily a result of consumers finally being able to renew their cars after lockdown had forced them to delay.
In addition, manufacturer incentives have helped attract customers to showrooms.
Public appetite for zero and ultra low emission cars remains stable, with plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles taking a nine per cent share of registrations for July, compared with 9.5 per cent last month and up from 3.1 per cent for 2019 overall.
Meanwhile, ‘supermini’ and small family cars were once again the most popular segments, accounting for 59.1 per cent of registrations.
Dual Purpose cars comprised 25.9 per cent of vehicles registered.
Business car registrations showed modest growth, with fleet purchases increasing by 5.2 per cent.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “July’s figures are positive, with a boost from demand pent up from earlier in the year and some attractive offers meaning there are some very good deals to be had.
“We must be cautious, however, as showrooms have only just fully reopened nationwide and there is still much uncertainty about the future.
“By the end of September we should have a clearer picture of whether or not this is a long-term trend.
“Although this month’s figures provide hope, the market remains fragile in the face of possible future spikes and localised lockdowns as well as, sadly, probable job losses across the economy.
“The next few weeks will be crucial in showing whether or not we are on the road to recovery.”