September new car sales fall… But why??

September new car sales fall… But why??

September is typically the busiest month of the calendar year for new car sales. Why, you ask? Because this is the month when car manufacturers release their new models for the following year. Or put another way, and by way of example, the new 2019 models come to the forecourts in September of 2018. To coincide with this, here in the UK one can highlight to their friends that they are indeed rolling in the newest model thanks to the identifiable registration number that their new-model car will be issued with (the third and fourth digits on your reg – ie “68” for 2019 models vs “18” for 2018 models). New car buyers will often wait until September not only for the newest model of car but also for the new reg plate, too!

With that bit of background, it is perhaps surprising to learn that this past September saw the lowest number of new car sales since 2011 – a time when we were still digesting the fallout of the financial crisis. 338,834 new cars were sold this past September, down from 426,170 in Sept of 2017. While some of the drop can be attributed to the ongoing uncertainty courtesy of Brexit, the real reason lies in something quite a bit more, shall we say, “under the radar”: The introduction of the new global emissions test – the WLTP, or Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (yes, really). The new WLTP replaced the older European-derived test (the New European Driving Cycle, NEDC) which was launched in 1997 that had been heavily criticised due to its inability to capture real-life driving situations, and in turn, accurate emission readouts. The more rigorous and time consuming WLTP test includes driving the car at higher speeds, and for longer distances.

However, the real issue surrounding the WLTP lay in the fact that every car built from Sept 1, 2018 was, theoretically, built to the outgoing NEDC test so therefore had to be re-certified for the new WLTP test. As such, there’s been a massive backlog with car manufacturers queueing up at testing centres either in their domestic market or around Europe to have their cars WLTP certified. This ultimately led to fewer new cars arriving to the forecourts to be sold. Dealers were struggling for inventory leading many to source cars from other dealers around the country. The end result? Fewer new car sales in the month of September. While this is likely just a blip, it will be interesting to see if there’s a bump in sales in October (and November). In the meantime, you might just have to join the queue for your next new motor…

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