UK new car market posts seventh straight month of growth with electric vehicles accounting for 16.5% of the market

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), UK new car registrations grew by 26.2% in February as 74,441 new cars joined Britain’s roads. Battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales helped to play a part in this with another strong month of sales totalling 16.5% of the UK car market. 

While February is typically low volume ahead of the March plate change, this year it marked the seventh month of consecutive growth as easing supply chain shortages steered the market closer to pre-pandemic levels, down just 6.5% on the same month in 2020.

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Zero emissions BEVs accounted for 16.5% of the UK market in February 2023 with 12,321 new registrations. Compared to same the month in 2022, which saw 10,417 new electric cars registered, this represents an 18.2% increase.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) recorded the most significant growth of all fuel types, up 40.0%, followed by petrol, up 35.8% with a 56.9% market share, while diesel registrations fell by 7.0%. Zero emission capable vehicles, meanwhile, continued their upward trend, with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) rising one per cent. 

Combined, plug-in vehicles accounted for almost a quarter (22.8%) of all deliveries in the month, with further growth anticipated. Nearly half a million (488,000) PHEVs and BEVs are expected to join Britain’s roads in 2023, as manufacturers bring more than 40 new plug-in electric models to the market. 

This will inevitably increase demand for charging infrastructure, however, while the new £56 million LEVI capability funding is welcome, there remains a clear requirement for binding targets that ensure chargepoint rollout keeps pace. 

As the new UK car market looks towards a year of double-digit growth, the Spring Budget is an important opportunity to shape Britain’s net zero progress and deliver an equitable transition for all. This should include a long-term plan for chargepoint investment, aligning VAT on public charging with domestic energy use, and reviewing the Vehicle Excise Duty premium that will unfairly penalise EV buyers switching to this inevitably more expensive technology in the future.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “After seven months of growth, it is no surprise that the UK automotive sector is facing the future with growing confidence. It is vital, however, that government takes every opportunity to back the market, which plays a significant role in Britain’s economy and net zero ambition. 

“As we move into ‘new plate month’ in March, with more of the latest high-tech cars available, the upcoming Budget must deliver measures that drive this transition, increasing affordability and ease of charging for all.”

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader Commercial Director, said: Anothermonth of solid year-on-year growth is a further indicator of growing consumer confidence and the gradual improvement in supply. Heavy constraints remain but the taps are slowly reopening, with levels of new car stock on our marketplace up over 30% on this time last year. The growth in fleet sales indicates a buoyant business side of the market. 

“With visits to Auto Trader increasing 17% year-on-year in February, continuing the momentum from January’s record 80 million visits, we’re seeing an automotive industry that is, so far, cushioned from wider macro-economic factors. This is due, in part, to the fact that for most consumers cars remain a necessity, even more so given the ongoing disruption in public transport. 

“February also saw 90% of consumers tell us they were at least as confident in their ability to afford their car as they were last year which adds to our confident outlook for the months ahead.

“The upward trajectory is even more noteworthy given the rising costs faced by car buyers, driven by the industry shift towards more expensive vehicles like EVs and SUVs. Average prices have climbed 43% to an average of £39,000 in just five years.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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