2021 new car sales well down on pre-pandemic levels, SMMT reports
06 January 2022
Author: Sean Keywood
The continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the global semiconductor shortage combined to stall any recovery in the UK new car market in 2021, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
It said a total of 1.65 million new registrations was up by just 1% compared with 2020, and down by 28.7% on 2019, making 2021 the market's second-worst year since 1992.
Fleet sales were particularly hard hit during the year, down by 4.4% on 2020, while business sales, classed as those to fleet with fewer than 25 vehicles, were down by 4.7%. Private registrations were up by 7.4%.
The SMMT has however picked out electrified vehicle sales as a plus point, with plug-in cars accounting for more than one in six registrations in 2021, and more pure EVs sold than in the years 2016-2020 combined.
The SMMT said 190,727 pure EVs were registered, a 76.3% year-on-year increase which meant an 11.6% market share.
Plug-in hybrids were up by 70% for a 7% share, while conventional hybrids were up by 34% for an 8.9% share.
Mild hybrid petrols were up by 66.2%, for a 12% market share, and mild hybrid diesels were up by 62% for a 6% share.
However, petrol cars were down by 15.7%, though they still led the market overall with a 46.3% share, and diesels were down by 48.1% for a market share of just 8.2%.
The SMMT has also published monthly figures for December, which showed a further collapse in fleet sales, down by 40.4% year-on-year, while business sales were down by 13.1% - a 19.9% rise in private registrations meant the market fell by 18.2% overall.
December also saw pure EVs take their highest ever market share for a non-lockdown month, with 25.5% of the market.
Reacting to the annual market figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "It's been another desperately disappointing year for the car industry as Covid continues to cast a pall over any recovery. Manufacturers continue to battle myriad challenges, with tougher trading arrangements, accelerating technology shifts and, above all, the global semiconductor shortage which is decimating supply.
"Despite the challenges, the undeniable bright spot is the growth in electric car uptake. A record-breaking year for the cleanest, greenest vehicles is testament to the investment made by the industry over the past decade and the inherent attractiveness of the technology.
"The models are there, with two of every five new car models now able to be plugged in, drivers have the widest choice ever and industry is working hard to overcome Covid-related supply constraints.
"The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure. Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the roll out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want."