05 September, 2019

UK new car market resilient in August as BEVs surge

The UK new car market was stable in August, with only 1,521 fewer cars registered than in the same month last year, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Market resilience

New car registrations fell by just 1.6% in what is typically one of the smallest months of the year although falling demand for diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles continued to impact the overall market. This resilience is especially noteworthy given the ongoing political and economic uncertainty as the UK continues to wrestle with its departure from the European Union. Moreover, new car registrations were at an inflated level in August 2018 as dealers offered deals on stock and manufacturers resorted to pre-registering vehicles ahead of the implementation of WLTP.

New car registrations in both the private and fleet channels fell by 1.7% and 3.5% year-on-year respectively although demand in the low-volume business segment increased by 962 units, equating to growth of 38.6% compared to August 2018.

Registrations of new diesel cars fell for the 29th month in a row in August but the year-on-year decline of 12.2% is slower than in recent months - diesel registrations were down 19.3% in the first eight months of the year. Demand for petrol cars increased again in August, albeit by only 1.0%, and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) enjoyed growth of 36.2%.

Welcome surge in BEVs

Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) surged by a phenomenal 377.5% compared to August 2018. 3,147 BEVs were registered in the month, although this is still lower than the 4,014 HEVs that joined UK roads in August. The decline in registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) continued, however, with demand down 71.8% year-on-year, to just 907 units. This follows the withdrawal of UK Government incentives for PHEVs at the start of 2019, with registrations now down 37% in the year-to-date.

The SMMT statement highlighted that ‘UK new car buyers can now choose from a huge range of technologies to suit their lifestyles and driving needs. In addition to the cleanest-ever petrols and diesels, the UK’s alternatively fuelled offering now includes some 27 hybrids, 27 plug-in hybrids, and 24 zero emission battery electric and hydrogen models.’

The SMMT highlighted that the range of new powertrain technologies is ‘set to almost double over the coming year’ but cautioned that ‘with demand still lagging behind ambitious government targets, it is clear that much more needs to be done, and quickly, to address consumer concerns over cost and infrastructure to make this emerging technology more accessible.’

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said ‘August is typically the new car market’s quietest month so the huge increase in EV registrations is very visible but especially welcome. It’s great to see consumers respond to the massive industry investment made over many years.

‘While this is encouraging, these figures also show the scale of the challenge ahead. It’s a long road to zero and while manufacturers can deliver the technology, they can’t dictate the pace of uptake. To support a smooth transition and deliver environmental gains now, we need a long-term government commitment to measures that give consumers confidence to invest in the latest technologies that best suit their needs,’ Hawes added.