The monthly performance was the weakest since October 1991. Demand from large fleets fell by 40.4%.
Private demand fell by a more modest -3.3%, although this apparent small decline is compared against weak consumer uptake during the pandemic-affected October 2020.
Falls were recorded in all vehicle classes except the Mini category, although this is typically a low volume segment and so subject to volatility. The most popular categories were lower medium (30.7%), supermini (30.0%) and dual purpose (26.6%). All three saw an increase in year-on-year market share.
The SMMT forecast for UK car sales in 2021 has been revised downward by -8.8% to 1.66 million units, considering the on-going supply issues and deteriorating economic outlook.
This would see 2021 finish 1.9% or some 30,000 units up on 2020, but some 650,000 units down on 2019’s pre-pandemic 2.3 million performance.
The SMMT is forecasting a partial recovery for 2022, with industry anticipating some 1.96 million new car registrations next year.
This, it said, will be driven by continued demand for plug-in vehicles, which is expected to continue at pace with new BEVs anticipated to be more popular than new conventional and mild-hybrid diesels by the end of 2022. Plug-in cars are also expected to account for more than a fifth (21.5%) of all new car registrations next year.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The current performance reflects the challenging supply constraints, with the industry battling against semiconductor shortages and increasingly strong economic headwinds as inflation rises, taxes increase, and consumer confidence has weakened.
“Electrified vehicles, however, continue to buck the trend, with almost one in six new cars registered this year capable of zero-emission motoring, growth that is fundamental to the UK’s ability to hit its net zero targets.
“With next year looking brighter, and even more new models expected, the continuation of this transition will depend on the preservation of incentives that overcome the affordability barrier, and the ability of the public and private sectors to increase public on street charging to allay EV driver concerns.”