Over 59,000 new cars were sold last month, representing a 7.3 per cent increase on sales in August 2010.
From January to July of this year sales were down 6.1 per cent on the same period last year.
Ford led the field with 3,213 Fiesta sales, representing over five per cent of all new car registrations in the month.
But the SMMT is expecting registrations for the full year to be down five per cent, as sales in August are usually light compared with the rest of the year.
“Consumers are nervous about the future and short to medium term economic uncertainty is likely to temper the rate of future growth” said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt.
There is some room for optimism, though – commercial vehicle sales are up 20 per cent over the year so far. From HGVs to lighter-weight trucks, the market has held up despite the slow economic recovery.
September is traditionally the largest month for registrations, with the new 61-plate becoming available.