CEO Update

Used car market can drive environmental change

14 May 2021 #CEO Update

The UK’s used car market experienced a turbulent first quarter, with sales decreasing -8.9% to just over 1.68 million units, according to the latest figures released by SMMT this week. Declines in January and February were responsible, and while transactions grew by 32.2% in March, suggesting there is some pent-up demand, this was against a weak March in 2020 when lockdowns first hit the UK.

Q2 will see activity rebound dramatically, set against April and May last year when activity was all but wiped out, and it’s crucial that we build on this uplift in the second half of 2021. A rejuvenated used car market is not only necessary to help sustain jobs, but it is also critical for driving fleet renewal and supporting the UK’s ambitious environmental goals as older, less efficient cars are replaced by cleaner pre-owned models.

With car showrooms reopen and the country continuing to come out of coronavirus-enforced lockdown restrictions, buyers are once again able to purchase new vehicles in person, which will subsequently lead to a rise in the number of the latest, cleanest models, including plug-ins, filtering into the used car market for customers to snap up.

This certainly appears to be the case with the latest figures highlighting that in the first quarter of 2021, demand for used battery electrics vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles increased by 48.3% and 32.1% respectively, despite the market decreasing -8.9% overall. Yet, these transactions equate to only 1.0%, or 38,228 vehicles, of the used car market, compared with the 1,638,536 conventional petrol and diesel models that changed hands last quarter,

This is clear evidence of the challenge ahead if the UK is to transition the entire used car parc away from traditional fuels to help tackle climate change and improve air quality. Fleet renewal to the latest, cleanest models remains the best way to achieve these important goals.

We are delighted to announce that Alison Jones, UK Managing Director and Senior Vice President, Stellantis, will be joining an exciting line up of keynote speakers at SMMT’s International Automotive Summit on Tuesday 29 June. The Summit will explore the business opportunities and ramifications of decarbonisation, as well as the UK’s competitiveness and the future of UK Automotive jobs.

As announced earlier, also appearing at the event will be Thierry Bolloré, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover, Michael Cole, President and Chief Executive, Hyundai Motor Europe and Chris Giles, Economics Editor, Financial Times. For information on tickets, sponsorship opportunities and to register, please contact our events team by email at

Finally, there was another vote of confidence in the UK sector this week, with Gordon Murray Group announcing its plans to invest £300 million over the next five years in order to develop a new EV. Investment like this is fantastic news for the sector and essential If the UK is to retain its reputation as a competitive location for automotive investment.

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