Five consecutive months of decline in the new car market was halted in August, new figures show.
Registrations of new cars increased by 1.2% last month compared with August 2021, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Some 68,858 new cars were registered in the first monthly growth since February.
Sales of new cars during the year so far are 35.3% down on the same period in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
August is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for the industry as many buyers choose to wait for new number plates to be released in September.
The uptake of pure electric new cars is slowing.
Year-to-date registrations are up 48.8%, compared with 101.9% at the end of March.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “August’s new car market growth is welcome, but marginal during a low volume month.
“Spiralling energy costs and inflation on top of sustained supply chain challenges are piling even more pressure on the automotive industry’s post-pandemic recovery, and we urgently need the new Prime Minister to tackle these challenges and restore confidence and sustainable growth.
“With September traditionally a bumper time for new car uptake, the next month will be the true barometer of industry recovery as it accelerates the transition to zero emission mobility despite the myriad challenges.”
Ian Plummer, commercial director at automotive classified advertising business Auto Trader, said: “The SMMT’s sales figures highlight just how much the industry’s ongoing supply challenges remain the key factor holding back the market.
“But energy price rises are beginning to bite ahead of October’s surge in the energy price cap, and our data is beginning to show early signs of a waning of appetite for electric vehicles as buyers weigh up higher charging costs against running a traditionally fuelled vehicle.”
Richard Peberdy, UK head of automotive at professional services company KPMG, said: “A slight easing of global supply shortages is leading to a welcome increase in UK car production and new car sales.
“But a rising cost of living threatens consumer appetite, whilst rising energy and other inflationary costs are putting pricing under pressure.
“The remainder of 2022 is set to further challenge the UK car industry, despite the welcome easing of component availability.”