Plug-in sector helps new car market grow for first time in five months
New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that the UK’s new car market enjoyed marginal growth of 1.4% in February – breaking five consecutive months of declining registrations.
81,969 new cars were registered last month – a year-on-year uplift of 1,164 units – in what is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for the industry ahead of the all-important 19-plate launching on 1 March.
Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles (hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicles) continued to increase – up 34% year on year and marking the 22nd consecutive month of growth for the segment. Registrations of zero-emission electric cars enjoyed particular growth, more than doubling to 731 units, although they still accounted for less than 1% of the market (0.9%).
However in the four months since October 2018 – when the Plug-In Car Grant was reformed – the market for plug-ins has only grown by 1.7% – compared with 29.5% during the first 10 months of 2018. This suggests removing the incentive for PHEVs is having an adverse effect.
The positive news for the electrified sector comes as manufacturers prepare to reveal more than a dozen all-new electric and plug-in models at the Geneva Motor Show. There’s already around 40 models available in the UK, with another 20 or so expected to launch during 2019.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s encouraging to see market growth in February, albeit marginal, especially for electrified models. Car makers have made huge commitments to bring to market an ever-increasing range of exciting zero and ultra low emission vehicles and give buyers greater choice.
“These cars still only account for a fraction of the overall market, however, so if the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed. The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive measures are needed, else ambitions will never be realised.”
Model-wise, the usual suspects make up the top three, with Ford’s Fiesta and Focus sharing the top two positions. Mercedes’ A-Class continues to impressive, while the popularity of crossovers continues to be reflected in the top 10, too.