Annual new car registrations fall dramatically in toughest year for market since 1992

UK automotive looks to green recovery strategy after 29.4 per cent fall

Annual new car registrations fall dramatically in toughest year for market since 1992

The UK new car market fell by almost a third (29.4 per cent) in 2020, with annual registrations dropping to 1,631,064 units, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A 10.9 per cent decline in December wrapped up a turbulent 12 months, which saw demand fall by 680,076 units to the lowest level of registrations since 1992.

Against a backdrop of Covid restrictions, an acceleration of the end of sale date for petrol and diesel cars to 2030 and Brexit uncertainty, the industry suffered a total turnover loss of some £20.4 billion.

Private vehicle demand fell by 26.6 per cent overall, amounting to a £1.9 billion loss of VAT to the Exchequer.

The year saw also saw 31.1 per cent fewer vehicles joining large company car fleets.

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In an atypical year, demand fell across all segments bar specialist sports, which grew by 7 per cent, although Britain’s most popular class of car remained the supermini, retaining a 31.2 per cent market share despite a 25.9 per cent decline in registrations.

Meanwhile, although falling by a combined 32.9 per cent, petrol and mild hybrid (MHEV) petrol cars made up 62.7 per cent of registrations, while diesel and MHEV diesels, down 47.6 per cent, comprised almost a fifth (19.8 per cent) of the market.

It was, however, a bumper year for battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars, which together accounted for more than one in ten registrations – up from around one in 30 in 2019.

Demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) grew by 185.9 per cent to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) rose 91.2 per cent to 66,877.

Related: Volvo to triple electric production capacity in response to strong electrified car sales

More than 100 plug-in car models are now available to UK buyers, and manufacturers are scheduled to bring more than 35 to market in 2021 – more than the number of either petrol or diesel new models planned for the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “2020 will be seen as a ‘lost year’ for Automotive, with the sector under pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over future trading conditions taking their toll.

“However, with the rollout of vaccines and clarity over our new relationship with the EU, we must make 2021 a year of recovery.

“With manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months, we will work with government to encourage drivers to make the switch, while promoting investment in our globally-renowned manufacturing base – recharging the market, industry and economy.”

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