Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s Commercial Director, said:
“The vice-like grip on new car volumes caused by supply chain issues appears to be easing to a firm hug.
“Although the market remains down on pre-COVID levels, the figures for January show a very positive increase in sales over the same month last year. With a particularly strong performance in retail sales, automotive brands are clearly choosing to prioritise the end consumer over their fleet customers.
“This promising start to the year has been driven by strong consumer demand – the volume of new car enquiries Auto Trader sent to retailers in January was 82% up versus the same month last year – and a gradual increase in the availability of certain models. In fact, a small number of brands had more brand-new stock available on Auto Trader in January than a year ago, one of which was Kia, which deserves the plaudits for being the top selling new car brand in the UK for the first time ever.
“It would be premature to say that the new car market is firing on all cylinders. We reckon there were about 1.4 million lost car sales over the course of the pandemic, caused, in part, by bottlenecks in the supply chain. Normal volumes are unlikely to return until the middle of the year at the earliest and, for many manufacturers, not until the final quarter of 2022.
“These ongoing stock challenges will undermine the market’s full potential for this year. We expect just under 2 million sales in 2022, up from the 1.65 million vehicles registered in 2021.
“Battery EVs have proven again to be a massive bright spot for the industry, with electric sales starting the year in a very promising position. It builds on the wave of fuel anxiety and increased environmental awareness that helped fuel the surge in electric consideration in 2021. This growing demand reflects what we’ve seen on our marketplace. Five of the ten most viewed new cars on Auto Trader last month were electric, including the top performer, the Kia Ev6, underlining the huge strides made by the Kia brand in recent times.”