UK’s new car market grows, but should slight drop in BEV registrations cause concern?

  • 18.9% increase in battery electric vehicles (BEV), with 45,323 registrations.
  • Concerns rise as private BEV purchases drop by -14.3%, emphasizing the need for incentives.
  • Industry urges support mechanisms to boost consumer confidence in adopting electric vehicles.

Is a lack of purchasing incentives contributing to the drop in BEV registrations?

According to the SMMT’s latest figures, the UK’s new car market experienced remarkable growth in September, with registrations soaring by 21.0%. This surge amounted to 272,610 vehicles, marking the 14th consecutive month of industry expansion. Large fleets were the primary drivers, exhibiting a staggering 40.8% increase and capturing an impressive 52.5% market share. Simultaneously, private consumer demand showed resilience, with a 5.8% uptick, contributing significantly to the sector’s robust September performance since 2020.

The electrified vehicle segment continued its upward trajectory, with plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) witnessing a remarkable 50.9% surge. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) also made substantial gains, rising by 30.7%. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) sustained their growth momentum, posting an 18.9% increase. However, the market share for BEVs experienced a slight dip, sliding from 16.9% to 16.6%. This decline was primarily attributed to a concerning drop in private BEV registrations, which fell by -14.3%.

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The decline in private BEV purchases has raised industry concerns, particularly given the ambitious targets set by the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. The mandate aims for 80% of new registrations to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Despite these goals, private consumers seem hesitant to embrace EVs fully. 

Industry experts stress the urgency of implementing robust support mechanisms. This could include private purchase incentives and equalized charging VAT, to stimulate consumer demand. That’s an idea that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed during his public address last month, but he has been known to change his mind. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

 “A bumper September means the new car market remains strong despite economic challenges. However, with tougher EV targets for manufacturers coming into force next year, we need to accelerate the transition, encouraging all motorists to make the switch. This means adding carrots to the stick – creating private purchase incentives aligned with business benefits, equalising on-street charging VAT with off-street domestic rates and mandating chargepoint rollout in line with how electric vehicle sales are now to be dictated. The forthcoming Autumn Statement is the perfect opportunity to create the conditions that will deliver the zero emission mobility essential to our shared net zero ambition.”

So, are we due to see some VAT measures and incentives to curtail this drop? Time will tell as the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate draws closer. But, if we’re to follow the success stories of the leading emobility countries; incentives are essential.

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