New car registrations tumbled by 14.3 per cent during the crucial month of March, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

During the month, 243,479 new cars were registered, making it the weakest March since 1998, which was due to the introduction of the two-plate system, which is still used today. The SMMT described the figures as ‘massively disappointing for the sector’, with this drop coming as a result of the ongoing shortage of semiconductors, which are used widely in modern cars. 

Despite the figures, the SMMT says that many manufacturers reported ‘robust order books’ during the first few months of 2022, while electric cars continued to soar in popularity. With 39,315 EVs registered in March, that’s the most of any month to date, and a sharp 78.7 per increase on 2021’s figures.

In fact, EVs made up more than one-in-seven new cars registered, and when combined with hybrid and plug-in hybrids, more than a third of new models sold were electrified.

When it comes to the list of best-selling cars, Tesla dominated, with the brand’s Model Y and Model 3 being the first and second most popular cars during the month, with 6,464 and 6,457 examples of each sold respectively. The Vauxhall Corsa rounded off the top three, with 5,515 registered.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “March is typically the biggest month of the year for the new car market, so this performance is deeply disappointing and lays bare the challenges ahead.

“While demand remains robust, this decline illustrates the severity of the global semiconductor shortage, as manufacturers strive to deliver the latest, lowest emission vehicles to eagerly awaiting customers. Placing orders now will be beneficial for those looking to take advantage of incentives and lower running costs for electric vehicles.”