Customer Behaviour

Hopes of a big rise in UK car sales in September have been dashed, spreading more gloom about the sector’s health. Sales in what is the industry’s second most important month rose 1.3% from a year earlier, well below the double-digit growth hoped for.

In the first nine months of the year, car sales fell 2.5% to 1.86 million, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said September’s rise was “fairly paltry”.

The small rise compared with what Mr Hawes described as a “pretty awful” September 2018, when sales slumped 20% due to the introduction of tougher emissions rules restricting the availability of certain vehicles.

“Any uplift from last year was welcome,” Mr Hawes told the BBC. “So we were hoping for something like a double-digit increase this September.”

March, followed by September, are traditionally the industry’s most important sales months due to licence plate changes typically prompting a spike in demand.

Other major European markets had seen much stronger sales growth last month.

Mr Hawes said: “Consumer confidence is being undermined by political and economic uncertainty. We need to restore stability to the market which means avoiding a no-deal Brexit and, moreover, agreeing a future relationship with the EU that avoids tariffs and barriers that could increase prices and reduce buyer choice.”

Sales of diesel models were down 20.6% during the first nine months of 2019, while demand for new petrol models was up 2.6%.

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