CEO Update

Record numbers of UK drivers go green in March

05 April 2023 #CEO Update

We ended the first quarter of 2023 on a positive note, aptly demonstrated by the latest new car registration figures out this week which signpost an industry on its way to recovery. The market posted its eighth month of successive growth and recorded the strongest start to a year since 2019 as the sector continues to buck wider economic trends to deliver growth, and green growth at that.

As the UK’s net zero goal moves ever closer, the new car and van markets are responding positively and in ever increasing numbers. March, with its new number plate, is always something of a bellwether for the year so achieving the best month ever for zero emission car uptake augurs well.

46,626 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were delivered in the month which, together with strong growth in both plug in hybrid (PHEVs) and, especially, hybrid vehicles, meant that electrified vehicles accounted for more than one in three registrations. This is driven by an increasing number of models coming to market and improved availability, but it is worth noting that market share of BEVs and PHEVs was broadly static compared to March 2022, a situation that must be reversed.

In the light commercial vehicle market, growth also continued, with the third consecutive monthly uplift resulting in the best March since 2021. Increasing numbers of van drivers continued to make the switch to battery electric vans as deliveries grew at speed, up by 31.1% as a further 2,500 units joined UK roads in the month. Vans are essential in keeping Britain’s businesses and economy on the move, and if we are to do so whilst reducing our impact on the environment, these vehicles must be increasingly “green”. The biggest obstacle is, again, infrastructure and the paucity of van-suitable charging infrastructure. The van market faces the same end of sale date as passenger cars yet the market remains a few years behind, despite recent growth.

Government has recently proposed a Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate for both cars and vans to drive the market but the industry alone cannot determine the pace of customer acceptance. Industry, Government and other stakeholders are agreed that charging should be as easy as refuelling so the onus is now on charge point businesses to provide the investment needed for a nationwide system of affordable, reliable and accessible charging facilities. This will not only bolster the confidence of current EV motorists and operators, but also encourage drivers who are on the fence to make the switch.

Electrification will be high on the agenda at our next event, SMMT Regional Forum 2023, which will take place in May at the British Motor Museum in the West Midlands, with more than 200 senior delegates, including vehicle manufacturers, local and global suppliers set to attend. The event is not to be missed and attendees will benefit from several expert presentations on the day from speakers including Aston Martin, Dennis Eagle, DHL, Grainger and Worrell, Invest Coventry & Warwickshire, LEVC, UKBIC and WMG.

Registration is now open and SMMT members benefit from free tickets, so if you are interested in attending visit here. Finally, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Easter break.


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