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New car market down 7.3% in January, EVs up

Date: 05 February 2020   |   Author: Illya Verpraet

Registrations of new cars in the UK fell by 7.3% compared to January 2019, although fleet sales remained relatively strong, with a drop of only 2.2%.

Diesel sales continued to collapse, with a 36% drop. This resulted in the smallest market share for diesel since the year 2000, at just 19.8%. If mild hybrid diesels are counted, the number looks only slightly less grim, at a market share of 22.9%, or a drop in total sales of 27%.

Petrol declined as well, by 9.5%, for a market share of 61.5%, although the same applies as with diesels: If mild hybrid petrols are included, the market share rises to 65.2%. This constitutes a drop in sales of 5.7% and a drop in market share of only one percentage point.

Meanwhile, the sales of hybrids and EVs grew. 20.6% more hybrids were registered than last year, plug-in hybrids rose 111%, while pure-electric vehicle sales grew 203%. Despite that growth, pure EV sales only made up 2.7% of the market, however. The total market share of hybrids and EVs now stands at 11.9% - this does not include mild hybrids.

To ensure this growth continues, the SMMT calls for clarity on the plug-in car grant, which is due to expire in March. The organisation says it should be extended to cover all ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), including plug-in hybrid, full battery electric and hydrogen-fuelled cars.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, "The new car market is a key driver of the UK's overall economy, so another month of decline is unsettling. Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by government's decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts on the end of sale of internal combustion engine cars. 

"While ambition is understandable, as we must address climate change and air quality concerns, blanket bans do not help short-term consumer confidence. To be successful, government must lead the transition with an extensive and appropriately funded package of fiscal incentives, policies and investment to drive demand. We want to deliver air quality and environmental improvements now but need a strong market to do so."