UK car market sees first million sales since pandemic, driven by hybrids over fully electric vehicles

2 weeks ago5 min

The UK car market has reached a significant milestone, with new car registrations surpassing one million in the first half of 2024, the first time this has happened since before the pandemic in 2019.

This resurgence includes a notable rise in the market share of electric vehicles. However, sales of plug-in hybrids and petrol hybrids have outpaced those of fully electric cars.

June’s monthly figures showed a slight deceleration in overall growth, with 179,263 new vehicles registered—a modest 1% increase compared to June of the previous year. Despite this, the first half of 2024 saw a 6% rise in new car sales compared to the same period last year, totalling 1,006,763. Yet, this figure is still down by 20.7% from 2019 levels.

The data reveals a significant shift in buyer demographics, with private purchasers now accounting for a historically low 38% of the market. In contrast, fleet and business buyers are taking advantage of fiscal incentives and subsidies to invest in lower-emission vehicles.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), praised the market’s ongoing recovery post-pandemic but warned of future challenges. He emphasised the need for supportive policies to revitalise the shrinking private consumer market and expedite the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Hawes stated, “The private consumer market continues to shrink against a difficult economic backdrop, but with the right policies in place, the next government can re-energise the market and deliver a faster, fairer zero-emissions transition. All parties are agreed on the need to cut carbon, and replacing older fossil fuel-based technologies with new electrified powertrains is the essential step to achieving that goal.”

Petrol engine-only vehicles continue to dominate but their market share fell to just over 50% in June. Battery electric vehicles saw a 7.4% increase in sales in June, representing 19% of the market. For the first half of the year, electric vehicles accounted for 16.6% of the market, a slight increase from 16.1% in the same period last year.

The market dynamics are influenced by some major brands reducing their petrol vehicle supplies to boost electric vehicle sales. Both Ford and Stellantis, which includes Vauxhall, have cut back on petrol vehicle supplies to avoid fines under the new zero-emissions vehicle mandate, which requires 22% of each manufacturer’s deliveries to be electric in 2024. This has resulted in significant sales declines for both companies.

Tesla, historically the UK’s leading electric car brand, saw a near 12% decline in sales. This downturn was partially offset by an increase in sales of electric vehicles from Chinese manufacturers like MG and BYD, with MG capturing nearly 4.3% of the market and BYD showing strong growth.

Despite these challenges, the market’s transition towards lower-emission vehicles is evident, with hybrids and plug-in hybrids showing substantial sales increases. Plug-in hybrid sales surged by 30% in June, capturing over 9% of the market, while hybrid sales rose by 27%, accounting for nearly 15% of the market.

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UK car market sees first million sales since pandemic, driven by hybrids over fully electric vehicles

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