New car registrations fell by 18.6% in August to 63,225 units and 3.8% year-to-date.
August typically only accounts for around 3% of annual volumes, falling just before the plate change in September. Volumes are expected to fall by some 10% or over 85,000 units in the final four months of 2008.
Paul Everitt, Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT) chief executive, said: “August is one of the quietest months for the new car market, but this year it was the lowest since 1966.
“The slow-down in the UK mirrors the difficult conditions being experienced across the main European markets.”
Everitt said the automotive industry was encouraged by the growing interest in lower carbon cars, but is still concerned about the reluctance for consumers to commit to major purchases.
He said: “There is a clear need for sustained action by government to boost the economy and restore confidence.”
Vauxhall’s Corsa outsold the Ford Focus in August, although places switched over year-to-date. Vauxhall outsold Ford in the month too, as last year, although Ford did close the gap.
Mini segment volumes rose in August, as their market share doubled, while the supermini share of the market moved from 29.1% a year ago to 33.8%, suggesting consumers are switching to more efficient motors.
The diesel market fell for a second successive month in August, although its market share once again improved from 41.4% to 44.3%. VW’s Golf was the best selling diesel model in August and over the year-to-date.
Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles fell back in August, down 25.7%, but remains up 5.7% over the year-to-date.
UK new car registrations
Registrations by sales type
Top 10 best sellers