Challenges around the implementation of new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) emissions standards correlated with a 20.5% decline in new car registrations during September 2018.
With lead times being an issue for car manufacturers since March, some had no cars to sell by the September 1st deadline for re-homologation of their model ranges.
Some vehicle manufacturers were forced to temporarily or permanently remove non-compliant models in response to the introduction of WLTP, with the publication of emission and MPG data delayed by large-scale homologation requirements.
Any vehicles below the new standards by September could not be successfully registered, while production lines sought last-minute compliance through modifying or buying new engines.
Fleet operators were particularly impacted, seeing leased vehicles reach their end-of-contract date without suitable replacements being available. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) car registration data, fleet uptake dropped by 22.4% in September as a consequence of WLTP homologation delays.
Registrations declined across nearly every vehicle segment, with 87,000 fewer cars registered overall compared to 2017 – despite September being, usually, one of the busiest times of the year. The only segment to show growth was luxury saloons (up +3.5%), with the biggest falls seen in MPV (-54.8%) and Specialist Sports car (-50.9%) markets.
Industry experts have been keen to emphasise a positive taken on events.
Chief executive of the SMMT, Mike Hawes, said: “With the industry given barely a year to reapprove the entire European model line-up, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen bottlenecks and a squeeze on supply.
“These are exceptional circumstances with similar declines seen in other major European markets. The good news is that, as backlogs ease, consumers and businesses can look forward to a raft of exciting high-tech cars and a market keen to recover lost momentum.”
Caroline Sandall, deputy chairman of AFCO, said the ramifications of WLTP on fleets and company car selections represented “a great opportunity for fleet managers to demonstrate their worth.”
"The new emission testing regime may have proved a bottleneck this month," said Justin Benson, UK head of automotive at KPMG. "But in the long run it will really help consumers decide which car is best for them and the environment.”