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Electric car sales up 90% year-on-year

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Demand for hybrid and plug-in cars is gaining pace, with one in 12 buyers in August going electric.

In total, 7,489 new alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were registered in the month, up from 3,968 in August last year – a near 90% increase.

The sector now accounts for 8% of the new car market – its highest ever level, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

August is typically a quiet month for car sales as motorists look ahead to September’s new number plates.

There were 94,094 new car registrations in total in the month, a 23% year-on-year increase, but 70,000 fewer than in July. Diesel continued its decline, with demand falling 7.7% – the 17th consecutive month of negative sales.

Superminis remained the most popular buy, followed by small family and dual purpose cars, with the luxury saloon and city car segments recording the most notable growth.

Best sellers for August were the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Golf.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s great to see such strong growth, particularly in the important electric vehicle market. However, given August is always a small month in new car registrations ahead of the important plate-change month of September, it would be wrong to view the market as booming.”

New car market fuelled by debt

Alex Buttle, director of car buying comparison website, said the recent interest rate rise could dent demand for new cars.

He said: “The new car market is being fuelled by a mountain of consumer debt. There has been an explosion in car finance products taken out by indebted households, with personal contract plans the major culprit.

“The rapid growth in PCP loans has taken place during a period of strong employment and low interest rates. But the PCP loan market could grind to a shuddering halt now there is uncertainty around interest rates and the possibility of more rate rises in the near future.”

Buttle added: “Households are already feeling the strain financially, and they are likely to think twice about taking out loans on big ticket purchases such as cars until the post-Brexit economic climate is more certain. And that’s not great news for the car manufacturers.”

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