EVs and hybrid sales up amid falling overall 2019 car market

Published:  06 January, 2020

Motorists continued to hold onto their existing cars last year, with the latest figures showing that new car sales were down 2.4% in 2019. The high degree of political and economic uncertainty is being seen as the likeliest cause.

According to figures released today (Monday 6 January) by the SMMT, annual registrations were down for the third consecutive year, with 2,311,140 units sold in 2019.

The drop was driven primarily by falling private demand, with registrations from consumers down 3.2%, while the small volume business market also fell, down -34.4%. Fleet registrations, meanwhile, remained broadly stable, up +0.8%.   Petrol car sales were up 2.2%, but diesel was down 21.8%, with December marking the 33rd month of diesel decline. Garages investing in the EV and hybrid side may be heartened to see alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations up in 2019. These took 7.4% of market share. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) increased 17.1% to 97,850 units. Battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations rose 144.0% to 37,850 units and overtaking plug-in hybrids for the first time.

The SMMT also published data showing the UK new car fleet average CO2 rose for a third successive year, by2.7% to 127.9g/km.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “A third year of decline for the UK new car market is a significant concern for industry and the wider economy. Political and economic uncertainty, and confusing messages on clean air zones have taken their toll on buyer confidence, with demand for new cars at a six-year low. A stalling market will hinder industry’s ability to meet stringent new CO2 targets and, importantly, undermine wider environmental goals. We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long-term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift. Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.”

Sue Robinson, Director of the NFDA added: “The new car market saw a -2.4% decline in 2019 as a result of the continued, prolonged political uncertainty and a number of challenges affecting the automotive sector, namely supply constraints and confusion surrounding emissions.

“It is encouraging to see that plug-in hybrids and electric cars saw consistent growth throughout the year. We expect the electric vehicle market to experience a significant increase in 2020 as new models become available and supply constraints ease.”

Used car sales did provide a bright spot according to Sue: “In 2019, the decline in new car registrations was partially offset by a strong used car market which provided profit opportunities for retailers who, in turn, offered excellent deals to their customers.”

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