New car sales fall to record lows with electric overtaking diesel sales

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Sales of new cars fell by 35 per cent last month, the worst June performance since 1971, and the number of motorists buying diesel cars plunged to new lows.

The motor trade described the figures as “barely a restart” after the industry emerged from lockdown.

New registrations in June were 145,000, compared with 223,000 in the same month last year. Diesel cars were down to below 16 per cent, against a figure for the year to date of 25 per cent.

Sales of vehicles that are part or fully electrified, and generally more expensive than conventional models, accounted for 24 per cent of the market and, despite the general dive in sales, showed good year-on-year growth. Registrations of pure electric cars rose by 160 per cent to 8,900, with the £42,000 Tesla Model 3 again in the top ten bestselling models.

After the lost months of April and May and the impact on sales from the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in the second half of March, which generally is the bestselling month of the year because of the registration plate change, sales for the first half of the year were down nearly 50 per cent year-on-year at 653,000.

The sector is now in two traditionally fallow months before the second annual registration plate change in September and is offering discounts.

“This is not a recovery and barely a restart and appetite for significant spending remains questionable,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which collates the figures.

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, saw a silver lining in regular commuters driving rather than using public transport, with “used and relatively economical cars particularly popular over the past weeks”.