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August new car registrations under the microscope

Tristan Young

04 Sep 2020

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In the first of this new series of monthly looks at the new car registration figures, YesAuto will dig a little deeper to see which car makers are doing well and which are struggling to find homes for their cars.

The majority of this analysis will look at the year-to-date performance because this provides a better indication of what’s going on in the new car market. After all, anyone can have an off month, or indeed have one storming month, but it’s consistency that counts.


2020 is obviously not a typical year. The UK-wide lockdown meant that car sales all-but-stopped in mid-March and didn’t properly restart until June. As a result, the UK new car market for the first eight months is running down 39.7% with a total registration figure that has yet to reach the 1 million mark, when last year it was above 1.5m by the end of August.

While the past couple of months have seen a bounce-back with positive figures compared with the same months in 2019, August was down 5.8%. However, against the year-to-date figure that’s got to be seen as a positive. One extra factor to remember is that August is traditionally one of the smallest months for registrations as buyers wait for the plate change month of September.

Best performers

So far this year, the star performer has been MG. The brand is the only manufacturer to have grown registrations this year and is currently up more than 30% for the year.

The top five continue with (-13.8%), (-14.8%), (22.6%) and (-28.3%).

However, special mention needs to go to Tesla, which isn’t named in the official figures but is the majority of the ‘Other Imports’ line which is running up 140.2% for the year to date.

Worst performers

In percentage terms, bottom of the pack is Smart, which is currently going through tough times as it reinvents itself as a pure electric brand. While EVs are increasingly popular – see chart below – they’re still a small part of the market. Smart’s drop for the year is running at -81.0%.

Subaru is next with a drop of -73.7%. The poor performance is mainly down to a car range that is missing low emission (efficient) cars and with tougher emissions regulations looming, you’d have to ask .

Suzuki is experiencing a -57.2% fall in sales this year, while Citroen is down 53.3% and Vauxhall completes the bottom five with a 52.3% drop.

Fuel type

With diesel having been demonised both by Government and the aftereffects of dieselgate, it’s no surprise to see the fuel’s popularity is falling (even more than the market is down).

Sales of cars you only refuel with petrol (including non-plugin hybrids) have been stable and at a drop of -39.3% are broadly in line with the overall market.

However, it’s plug-in cars that are rocketing in popularity. Pure EVs are up 157% while PHEVs are up 67.7% so far this year and account for a combined market share of 8.2%.

Top 10s

Ford’s Fiesta continues to top the new model registration chart both for the month and the year with (for the year) the second best seller – the Ford Focus more than 4,000 cars behind.

It’s interesting to see Ford’s new Puma is performing very well and is fourth in the registrations for August.

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