Figures fell almost a quarter compared to October 2020
The car industry suffered its worst October performance since 1991, figures show.
Just 106,265 new cars were registered in the UK last month, representing a 24.6% fall compared with October 2020, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
This made it the fourth consecutive month with a year-on-year decline.
The SMMT revised down its forecast for how many new cars will be registered in the UK this year by 8.8% in light of ongoing supply chain issues and the deteriorating economic outlook.
This would see 2021 finish 1.9% up on last year, but more than a quarter down on the pre-pandemic total of 2.3 million in 2019.
The market for plug-in vehicles continues to buck the trend.
Registrations of battery electric vehicles increased by 73.1% in October, while demand for plug-in hybrids increased by 7.5%.
Plug-in vehicles now account for 16.6% of new car registrations this year.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes 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 (EVs), 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.”
The UK has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
Jim Holder, editorial director of magazine and website What Car?, said the “most positive message” from the October figures is the “strong” battery electric vehicle performance.
He went on: “This has been the fastest-growing new car segment in the UK for some time now, and will only continue to grow as manufacturers continue to expand their electric line-ups and offer customers a wider array of exciting new vehicles.”
Alex Buttle, co-founder of used car marketplace Motorway.co.uk, said market conditions mean car buyers face “difficult purchasing decisions”.
He went on: “Ongoing supply chain issues and ever-growing manufacturer waiting lists mean buyers could be waiting six to 12 months for delivery of their new car.
“This has driven people to turn to the used car market instead which continues to be extremely buoyant at all ends of the buying spectrum.
“But sky-high demand has seen record-breaking used car prices being achieved in recent months, with 30% premiums on the sale of many makes and models compared to a year ago.”