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Car sales expected to dive after vehicles are pre-registered to dodge new emissions rules

Motors | Published:

Stricter tests for vehicle emissions mean sales have been suffering during the traditionally strong plate-change month of September

Strong new car sales figures posted in August are likely to crash in September, after artificially high levels were caused by dealers pre-registering vehicles.

It’s suspected that impressive highs of 94,094 registrations are merely a response to new WLTP regulations, with manufacturers keen to offload vehicles before they became noncompliant on September 1.

The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Procedure, or WLTP, came into full force on September 1 – and all new vehicles registered after this date are required to conform to the system’s strict new testing procedure for fuel consumption, CO2 and pollutant emissions.

However, rather than risk having hundreds of non-WLTP compliant cars to deal with, manufacturers have inundated dealers with pre-registered models instead.

Pre-registering refers to car dealers registering cars themselves, before selling them on as ultra-low mileage used vehicles, normally at a large discount. In this case, it also allowed them to circumvent WLTP regulations, which would have seen a great number of cars left unable to be registered without being put through a costly testing process.

New car registration data showed the true picture, with a 23.1 per cent jump in August over the previous year. Used car buying website Auto Trader saw a 22 per cent rise in the number of cars with fewer than 100 miles on the clock, further indicating large numbers of pre-reg cars.

Ian Plummer, director at Auto Trader, said: “We’ve seen more tactically registered new cars advertised each month, and can only assume there are more out in the market.”

Dealers are now expecting a sales plunge in September, against the market’s usual upward trend. With September being one of two months when number plates change, it usually sees a sales boost.

Even new vehicles aren’t immune, with several model ranges being taken off sale until they’re made WLTP-compliant. Some vehicles, such as the Volkswagen Golf R, have had small reductions in power, while others such as the BMW M3 have been canned altogether, with the cost of conformity considered too great.

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