CEO Update

New car market up as Britain’s millionth electric car hits road

07 October 2022 #CEO Update

September saw a milestone for the transition to zero emission mobility as the UK registered its millionth plug-in electric car, with almost quarter of a million registered so far this year alone. This is undoubtedly good news and a sign that massive investment by the industry to develop increasingly sophisticated electric vehicles is bearing fruit.

Despite this progress, battery electric vehicles still make up but a small fraction of cars on the road, and electric vehicle uptake is slowing compared to previous years. We need, therefore, to ensure every lever is pulled to encourage motorists to make the shift to a new, zero-emission model if our green goals are to be met. That means incentives, and greater and faster investment in charging infrastructure.

But the latest figures issued this week were encouraging as the UK new car market recorded its second successive month of growth, with registrations rising 4.6% in September. In what is typically the second biggest month of the year for the sector, 225,269 cars joined Britain’s roads. The performance is set, however, against 2021 and the weakest September since 1998. Overall registrations for the month are still some -34.4% below pre-pandemic levels as the industry continues to battle supply issues in trying to fulfil a backlog of orders.

Commercial vehicle registrations were also up in September, rising 10.8% to 34,950, the first monthly uplift this year, driven by the fulfilment of orders for vans weighing more than 2.5 tonnes, which represented 73.8% of the market. Demand for battery electric vans meanwhile, continued to grow rising 70.0% to a market share of 4.4% – up from 2.9% in 2021.

With a growing number of zero emission van models coming to market, more operators are benefitting from lower taxation, purchase incentives and zone charge exemptions. As a result, demand for these models has increased by 52.9% year on year from January to September – although there is significant distance to travel to match the passenger car sector, never mind decarbonising the entire commercial vehicle fleet.

UK new car and van markets remain sluggish as supply chain issues continue to constrain model availability. Whilst the industry is working hard to address these issues, long-term recovery also depends on robust consumer confidence and economic stability.

Finally, as SMMT continues to ramp up its international activities following the pandemic, we visited Lithuania this week to explore new opportunities in the Baltic region. The area is already home to some major automotive suppliers and component manufacturers and the Lithuanian authorities are making efforts to attract more high-value production to the country and build business with international companies. There are significant prospects for UK firms prepared to broaden horizons and generate new business; to find out more contact our international team here.

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