NEW car registrations fell for the fourth consecutive month, with a decline of 24.6% to 106,265 units compared to October last year, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Plug-in vehicle uptake remained positive in the month before COP26, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) equalling their September market share of 15.2% with 16,155 units, while plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) grew to 7.9% or 8,382 units.
Plug-in vehicles now account for 16.6% of all new car registrations in 2021, which, when joined by a further 9.1% from hybrid electric vehicles means that 25.7%, or more than a quarter of the new car market, has been electrified year-to-date.
In fact, plug-in vehicle uptake rates have accelerated so rapidly that SMMT forecasts that more will join Britain’s roads in 2021 than during the whole of 2010 to 2019 combined. Businesses and consumers are expected to take up around 287,000 of the latest zero-emission capable cars by the end of the year.
Despite this strong performance in electrified vehicle registrations, the overall market’s monthly performance was the weakest seen since October 1991.1 Demand from large fleets fell by a substantial -40.4%, driving most of the decline. Private demand fell by a more modest -3.3%, although this apparent small decline is compared against weak consumer uptake during the pandemic-affected October 2020.
Falls were recorded in all vehicle classes except the Mini category, although this is typically a low volume segment and so subject to volatility. The most popular categories were lower medium (30.7%), supermini (30.0%) and dual purpose (26.6%). All three saw an increase in year-on-year market share.
Looking ahead, the latest SMMT forecast has been revised downward by -8.8% to 1.66 million units, in light of the on-going supply issues and deteriorating economic outlook. This would see 2021 finish 1.9% or some 30,000 units up on 2020, but some 650,000 units down on 2019’s pre-pandemic 2.3 million performance.
A partial recovery, however, is forecast for 2022, with industry anticipating some 1.96 million new car registrations next year. This will be driven by continued demand for plug-in vehicles, which is expected to continue at pace with new BEVs anticipated to be more popular than new conventional and mild-hybrid diesels by the end of 2022.2 Plug-in cars are also expected to account for more than a fifth (21.5%) of all new car registrations next year.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The current performance reflects the challenging supply constraints, with the industry battling against semiconductor shortages and increasingly strong economic headwinds as inflation rises, taxes increase and consumer confidence has weakened.
“Electrified vehicles, however, continue to buck the trend, with almost one in six new cars registered this year capable of zero-emission motoring, growth that is fundamental to the uk’s ability to hit its net zero targets. with next year looking brighter, and even more new models expected, the continuation of this transition will depend on the preservation of incentives that overcome the affordability barrier, and the ability of the public and private sectors to increase public on street charging to allay EV driver concerns.”
Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealer Association added: “The sustained growth experienced by the plug-in and battery electric vehicle sectors is encouraging. In line with consumers’ uptake, retailers are also embracing the transition to zero emissions as demonstrated by the enthusiastic response to NFDA’s Government-backed, recently reopened accreditation scheme Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA).
“Franchised dealers remain the go-to place to buy a new car with consumer appetite to experience electric vehicles continuously growing and footfall rising in showrooms. Motorists seek advice and reassurance as they want to understand EVs, which, for many, differ in specification and operation from the car they been used to.
“Supply constraints are unlikely to ease off in the short term, as a result, dealers continue to meet their customers’ needs thanks to a strong used and nearly new car market and the ever-increasing demand for EVs.”
James Fairclough, Chief Executive of AA Cars said that months of delays and interruptions on production lines mean many dealers simply aren’t receiving enough new cars to meet customer demand.
He added: “In September the number of cars leaving UK factories and heading for the domestic market slumped to nearly half the level recorded during the same month in 2020, and the global shortage of the semiconductors modern cars rely on has dragged down vehicle production in other countries too.
“The standout performers of the UK’s new car market remain electric vehicles. Battery EVs accounted for a record 15% of all new car sales in September and October. EVs and hybrids now account for nearly a third of the cars made in UK factories, their highest ever level.
“October’s double whammy of fuel shortages and rapidly rising fuel prices certainly gave EVs the best possible advert, encouraging many buyers who had already been considering a switch to an EV to bring forward their decision. The buzz around EVs created by this week’s COP26 Summit in Glasgow may nudge even more drivers to go electric in coming months.
“But with demand outstripping the supply of many new models, thousands of motorists are choosing to focus on the second-hand market instead, where availability is significantly better. On the AA Cars website we’ve seen a surge of interest in used vehicles that are available to drive away today.
“While there are some great deals to be had on used cars, we always recommend that an independent pre-sale vehicle inspection takes place on any second-hand car before any money changes hands, to ensure drivers can have peace of mind that there are no hidden faults which could cost them money down the line.”