Peaks and troughs

New car registrations fell by 8.5% in May, according to Monday's figures from the SMMT. I think this announcement was a little buried by everything else going on last week, and took more of a back seat than it should have.

There was a serious build-up to April’s sudden drop in registrations; we all knew the introduction of the latest VED scheme would cause sales to spike in March and tail off the following month, and as alarming as the 19.8% drop appeared at first glance, it was always going to happen.

I think May’s figure is a greater cause for concern. The SMMT continued to pin a certain amount of this on VED, and also cited buyers sitting tight until after Thursday’s General Election. The latter scapegoat stacks up, as retailers surveyed in our annual barometer confirmed that politics had put many a car purchase at bay.

I reckon it would be fair to chalk a reduction of 5% or less up to those reasons, but 8.5% is quite a bit, while respective falls of 20% and 14% for diesel and retail sales are a lot. Granted, business and alternative fuel vehicle sales were up by 20.1% and 46.7% respectively, but they’re a fraction of the market – and not everyone can sell electric cars to SMEs.

The peak is clearly behind us, but last month’s slope was pretty steep. Here’s hoping for a refreshing absence of major political events and legislative changes to smooth things out.     

Jack Carfrae

Acting editor

Auto Retail Agenda

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