Car market looks to green recovery after ‘lost year’

New car registrations were down by almost a third across 2020 – but positive EV market figures signal green growth in 2021, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Overall, a -10.9% decline in December 2020 followed a year of low demand for new vehicles, with the market declining by 680, 076 units overall – the lowest figure since 1992. There were a third fewer vehicles joining business fleets (-31.1%) and an overall private vehicle reduction of -26.6%.

In terms of green vehicles though, the figures were robust, suggesting in a good year for sales the results could be even more positive. Battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars accounted for one in 10 registrations – up from one in 30 in 2019.

‘Pure’ electric battery electric vehicles (BEV) grew by 185.9% to 108,205 units last year and registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEV) grew 91.2% to 66,877. The majority of these registrations were company vehicles, which the SMMT suggested private buyers “need stronger incentives” to switch and more investment in charging infrastructure, including public on-street facilities, are needed.

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.

To increase uptake will require others to match the industry’s commitment to electrification and the SMMT said it “will continue to work with government on the detail of a strategy to deliver a successful, rapid transition” that benefits society – and safeguards automotive manufacturing with sufficient battery production capacity.

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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