LONDON -- UK registrations fell by 4.4 percent in September, usually one of the top two months of the year for sales, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to affect the sector.
The monthly figure of 328,541 units was the weakest September in more than 20 years, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said in a news release on Monday.
The decline in demand follows a 5.8 percent drop in August and appears to dash hopes for an early recovery from a coronavirus-driven slump.
The figures are especially disappointing because September is usually a key month for UK auto retailers, with a change of year on license plates spurring purchases. The decline makes for the worst September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999, the SMMT said.
"This is not a recovery," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in the release. "Unless the pandemic is controlled and economywide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed."
The poor monthly performance follows very low volumes recorded in September 2018 and 2019, when regulatory changes surrounding the new WLTP emissions testing regime delayed vehicle certification and caused supply problems across Europe.
Sales to business fleets fell 5.8 percent in September while sales to private buyers declined by 1.1 percent, SMMT data showed.