Britain’s auto industry suffered its worst March for new car sales since 1998, according to new figures.
Just 243,479 new cars were registered last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
That’s a 14.3% drop from March 2021.
This is the lowest March total since 1998, which was before new license plates were introduced each March and September.
SMMT managing director Mike Hawes called the numbers “deeply disappointing”, with March crucial for the industry as it is normally the busiest month of the year as buyers demand the last license plate.
He said: “While demand remains robust, this decline illustrates the severity of the global semiconductor shortage as manufacturers scramble to deliver the latest, lowest-emission vehicles to eagerly awaiting customers. .
“Place orders now will benefit those looking to take advantage of incentives and reduced running costs for electric vehicles, especially as the Ukraine crisis could further affect supply.
“With rising costs for households and businesses, the government must do all it can to support consumers so that the growth of electric vehicles can be sustained and the UK’s ambitious net zero timetable be respected.”
The UK has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To achieve this, sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from 2030.
Last month, the Department for Transport announced a plan to increase the number of public electric vehicle charging stations in the UK from 30,000 to 300,000 by that date.
A record 64,165 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in March.
This represents an increase of 78.7% compared to the same month in 2021, taking a market share of 16.1%.
More BEVs were registered last month than in all of 2019.
Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine and website, said: “While it is obvious and welcome that the demand for low and zero emission vehicles is growing at a rapid pace, it is also clear that the Adoption could be much higher if the supply problems caused by the shortage of semiconductor computer chips, and exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, did not have such a devastating impact on sales figures.
“Recent increases in energy prices and the general cost of living also pose a challenge.”