New car sales reverse but electric motors surge 229% - SMMT

Surging demand for electric and hybrid motors has failed to put the spark into new car sales, with the overall market slipping by 1.3 per cent last month, new figures reveal.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 12:41 pm
Pure battery electric cars, such as this BMW i3, now command a 3 per cent share of the market. Picture: John Devlin

Industry leaders said the UK new car market was facing “challenging times” as it emerged that 2,018 fewer vehicles were registered in November than during the same month last year.

This maintains the downward trend for new car registrations throughout 2019 as the industry has been hit by weak business and consumer confidence, economic uncertainty and confusion over diesel and clean air zones, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

The latest figures showed there were 4,652 battery electric cars registered in November. This marked a surge of 229 per cent on the previous year, with the battery electric vehicle (EV) market share up from 0.9 per cent to 3 per cent.

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Industry experts say more needs to be done to improve charging infrastructure. Picture: Jon Savage

For the second consecutive month, total alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations reached a record market share – with more than one in ten cars joining UK roads either hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric.

In total, 156,621 cars were registered UK-wide during November. Sales of diesel models were down 27.2 per cent, year-on-year, while demand for petrol cars grew by 2 per cent.

Year-to-date figures show the new car market declined 2.7 per cent during the first 11 months of 2019 compared with 2018.


SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “These are challenging times for the UK new car market, with another fall in November reflecting the current climate of uncertainty.

“It’s good news, however, to see registrations of electrified cars surging again, and 2020 will see manufacturers introduce plenty of new, exciting models to give buyers even more choice.

“Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go for these vehicles to become mainstream and, to grow uptake further, we need fiscal incentives, investment in charging infrastructure and a more confident consumer.”

Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website, said: “It has been a year to forget for UK car manufacturers. Diesel sales have been heavily depressed, and while electric has shown real promise for accelerated growth next year, the industry will be glad to see the back of 2019.

“As to whether 2020 will see an upturn in fortunes, that very much depends on the result of next week’s general election and a favourable Brexit outcome ahead.”

James Fairclough, chief executive of AA Cars, said: “Successive declines in new car sales has become an unfortunate trend in 2019, and it is disappointing to see another fall in sales in November.

“Within this challenging environment, we continue to see the growth of the electric and hybrid segments. We are delighted to see that alternatively fuelled vehicles reached record market share for a second consecutive month.

“It is a sure sign that drivers are increasingly committed to playing their part in reducing emissions when selecting a new car.”

Vauxhall’s Corsa hatchback was the best-selling model last month.

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