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Supply chain issues see new car sales slump in May

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

New UK car registrations fell -20.6% to 124,394 units in the second weakest May since 1992, after the 2020 pandemic-hit market, as supply shortages continued to hamper new purchases and the fulfilment of existing orders, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The decline, compared with the first full month of reopened showrooms in May last year, demonstrates the impact of continued global supply chain disruptions, with the market -32.3% below the 2019 pre-pandemic level despite strong order books.

While private consumer purchases fell -10.3%, their market share increased year-on-year by 6.1 percentage points to 53.2%, in part due to manufacturers striving to fulfil deliveries – particularly of electric vehicles – to private buyers, with the commensurate effect on the business and large fleet sectors, which now comprise 46.8% of the market.

Despite the myriad challenges affecting the industry and a high level of market distortion due to restricted supply of all vehicle types and technologies, manufacturers have worked hard to sustain progress towards the decarbonisation of road transport and the delivery of UK’s ambitious net zero targets. May saw registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rise by 17.7%, representing one in eight new cars joining the road last month. Plug-in hybrids declined -25.5%, while hybrids were up 12.0%, meaning deliveries of electrified vehicles accounted for three in 10 new cars.

Superminis continued to be the most sought-after segment by British motorists, making up 32.7% of registrations in the month, despite their registrations falling -16.4% to 40,667 units, followed by dual purpose, which accounted for 28.9% of the market even after a -14.1% fall in volumes. The small volume luxury car segment was the only area of growth, up 16.8%, to 369 units.

The supply chain challenge has contributed to an overall market decline in the year to date of -8.7%, equivalent to 62,724 fewer units. This is -40.6% below the five-year average recorded from January to May, as the new car market continues to struggle to emerge from the impact of the pandemic.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “In yet another challenging month for the new car market, the industry continues to battle ongoing global parts shortages, with growing battery electric vehicle uptake one of the few bright spots. To continue this momentum and drive a robust mass market for these vehicles, we need to ensure every buyer has the confidence to go electric. This requires an acceleration in the rollout of accessible charging infrastructure to match the increasing number of plug-in vehicles, as well as incentives for the purchase of new, cleaner and greener cars.

“Delivering on Net Zero means renewing the vehicles on our roads at pace but, with rising inflation and a squeeze on household incomes, this will be increasingly difficult unless businesses and private buyers have the confidence and encouragement to do so.”

Grey is the colour… again!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

British drivers doubled down on their preference for monochrome cars in 2021, with grey increasing its dominance as the UK’s favourite new car colour for the fourth year in a row, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). During a year of pandemic-related disruptions impacting total new car registrations, 408,155 grey cars were sold, up 2.8% and accounting for a quarter (24.8%) of the market.

Black, the most popular car paint in Britain from 2009 to 2012, wrapped 20.5% of passenger cars, while white was in third place (17.2%), meaning UK drivers were most likely to choose a monochrome car for the 11th year running. More than six in 10 (62.4%) of all new cars joining British roads in 2021 were painted in one of these shades, although blue edged closer to the top three, increasing its sales (1.4%) for the first time in five years and trailing just 2,638 units behind white.

The rest of the top 10 remained largely unchanged from 2020, although green overtook orange to gain seventh place, cladding 17,927 cars. Sales of green cars rose for the first time since 2015, with 24.0% more buyers opting for the colour than in the previous year.

A record number of drivers also opted for ‘green’ under the bonnet, with battery electric and plug-in cars accounting for more than one in six registrations – up from around one in 10 in 2020 and one in 30 in 2019. However, whether battery electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid, petrol or diesel, grey was the colour of choice across all fuel types.

White was the most popular shade for mini-sized and sports cars, while larger dual purpose, luxury saloons and executive cars were, as usual, most likely to be black.

At the niche end of the colour palette, gold, yellow and turquoise were the fastest growing colours, with gold more than tripling its appeal (up 231.8%), yellow up by a third (31.3%) and turquoise up by a fifth (19.2%), although together they accounted for less than one percent of the market (0.9%).

SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said: “2021 was anything but normal, but British drivers stuck to their familiar favourites of grey, black and white cars. But while last year’s new cars might share the same shades as previous years, under the bonnet there has been a real shift, with one in six buyers choosing to go green.

“With car registrations still low compared to pre- pandemic, helping even more drivers move to greener cars – whatever the actual colour – has never been more important. Incentives are helping move the market and should continue, but the speed of this shift to electric must be matched by an acceleration in the pace of charging infrastructure investment. Drivers should expect to be able to recharge irrespective of wherever they live, work or visit.”

A non-monochrome colour has not been among the UK’s overall top three since blue in 2010, although it was second most popular colour amongst Welsh and Northern Irish new car buyers. Grey was the top colour in every British nation last year, but more so in England (25.3%), closely followed by Scotland (22.9%), Wales (22.8%), and Northern Ireland (21.7%).

Counties sporting bright-coloured cars included Bedfordshire, the most likely place to see a new pink car, with 66 registrations, while Greater London and Buckinghamshire had the highest numbers of green and turquoise motors, with 1,263 and 238 registrations respectively. Orange was the new black in the West Midlands, where tangerine-tinted cars accounted for 1,156 registrations, the highest in any UK region.

Scotland was, however, the least likely place to spot a new maroon car, as none were sold in the country. In fact, just 12 buyers across the whole of the UK specified their new car in the colour – the lowest number since 1997.

Consumer preference for grey, which comes in many varying shades, can be attributed to a wide range of reasons; it can be a sleek and deeper tone than other shades, is well-suited to black trims and darker wheels and offers an attractive compromise between the also-popular black and white, with wider resale appeal than brightly coloured cars, so a potentially ‘safer’ choice, especially as it reduces the visibility of dirt more than the other shades.

COVID stalls 2021 UK new car market but EV sales strong

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

2021 new car registrations grew by just 1% on a pandemic-ravaged 2020, as 1.65 million new cars entered the UK market, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The figures underline the ongoing impact of Covid and the semiconductor shortage on the industry, with the market down -28.7% on pre-pandemic 2019, representing the second worst year since 1992.

There was some good news, however, with 2021 the most successful year in history for electric vehicle uptake as more new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered than over the previous five years combined.3  190,727 new BEVs joined Britain’s roads, along with 114,554 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), meaning 18.5% of all new cars registered in 2021 can be plugged in. This is in addition to the 147,246 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) registered which took a further 8.9% market share in a bumper year for electrified car registrations, with 27.5% of the total market now electrified in some form.

Following billions of pounds of investment into new technology by manufacturers, more than 40% of models are now available as plug-ins. Indeed, the shift in customer preference for these new technologies continues apace, with December seeing BEVs take a record market share in a non-locked down trading month, accounting for 25.5% of all new registrations.

The UK finished 2021 as the third largest European market for new car registrations but the second largest by volume for plug-in vehicles and the second largest for BEVs. It is only in ninth position overall, however, in Europe for BEVs by market share, underlining the progress still to be made, despite the UK having among the most ambitious targets of all major markets with the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars scheduled for 2030.

Recent announcements, including cuts to both purchase incentives and grants for home chargers, put the achievement of industry’s and government’s net zero ambitions at risk. Furthermore, the slow pace of growth in on-street public charging – where, on average, 16 cars potentially share one standard on-street charger – could put the brake on EV demand and undermine the UK’s attractiveness as a place to sell electric cars.4

Petrol-powered vehicles, including mild hybrids (MHEVs), remain Britain’s most popular powertrain, accounting for 58.3% of all new cars registered in 2021, with diesel-powered cars including MHEVs making up 14.2% of the market, followed by BEVs at 11.6%, HEVs at 8.9% and PHEVs at 7.0%.

Registrations by private buyers increased by a moderate 7.4%, while those by businesses and large fleets fell by -4.4% and -4.7% respectively, in part due to supply shortages. Superminis remained Britain’s most popular cars, with 514,024 registrations, followed by the lower medium (449,631) and dual purpose (443,632) segments.

Looking ahead, the latest forecast for 2022 – published in October, before the rise of the Omicron variant – is for 1.96 million new car registrations.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “It’s been another desperately disappointing year for the car industry as Covid continues to cast a pall over any recovery. Manufacturers continue to battle myriad challenges, with tougher trading arrangements, accelerating technology shifts and, above all, the global semiconductor shortage which is decimating supply.

“Despite the challenges, the undeniable bright spot is the growth in electric car uptake. A record-breaking year for the cleanest, greenest vehicles is testament to the investment made by the industry over the past decade and the inherent attractiveness of the technology.  The models are there, with two of every five new car models now able to be plugged in, drivers have the widest choice ever and industry is working hard to overcome Covid-related supply constraints.

“The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure. Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the roll out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want.”

Low emissions car registrations hit record share in Europe

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

According to data from 26 European markets, new car registrations slowed in July, recording a year-on-year decline of 24% as total volume decreased from 1.27 million units to 967,830 – But low emission cars took a greater share of sales than ever before.

Similar results were recorded in July 2012, when the market registered 966,090 units. The year-to-date results remain positive, up by 17% compared to 2020 with 7,381,735 units registered, but down by 24% when compared with January to July 2019.

Felipe Munoz, Global Analyst at JATO Dynamics, which analysed the data, said: “Despite the efforts of national governments to boost consumer confidence, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt by the industry.”

While volume increased in Norway, Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, Ireland and Lithuania, this combined accounted for only 8% of total registrations during the month.

In contrast to the overall trend, consumers in Europe continued to buy more low emissions vehicles. In July, a total of 160,646 BEV and PHEV vehicles were registered, accounting for almost 17% of total registrations. This is the second highest monthly market share after June 2021, and the third highest ever in Europe – BEVs accounted for 47% of that total.

Munoz added: “Consumers continue to respond positively to the deals and incentives attached to EVs which have made these vehicles far more competitive in terms of their pricing. But despite becoming increasingly popular, consumer uptake has not been enough to offset the big drops posted by diesel cars.” JATO data indicates that between July 2019 and July 2020, the market share for diesel vehicles dropped by just over 2 points, while their market share dropped by almost 8 points between July 2020 and July 2021. During the same period, the market share for EVs grew by the same amount lost for diesel vehicles.

The market share for gasoline cars has steadily declined from 63.4% in July 2019 to 59.8% in July 2020, and to 59.0% last month.

Munoz continued: “We are beginning to see the impact of campaigns that favour EVs over ICE vehicles playout in the market, however the industry is not yet doing enough to enable EVs to absorb the losses sustained by traditional powertrains.” While diesel registrations decreased by 166,000 new units between July 2020 and July 2021, and almost 207,000 between July 2019 and July 2021, EVs gained only 49,000 units between July 2020 and July 2021, and 125,000 units between July 2019 and July 2021.

In July’s model rankings, the Dacia Sandero secured the top spot for the first time since its launch back in 2008. Thanks to the new generation, the subcompact posted significant gains in Germany (+15%), Romania (+24%), and topped the rankings in France and Spain – alongside being the 8th best-selling car in the year-to-date rankings.

The Sandero’s volume fell by only 2% compared to July 2019, while other leaders such as the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo, Dacia Duster, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Tiguan, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Octavia, Peugeot 208, Mercedes A-Class and Renault Clio, posted drops between 17% and 52%.

Last month, there were also strong performances in the SUV segment as both the Hyundai Tucson and Ford Puma entered the top 10. JATO data shows that SUVs recorded the highest ever monthly market share in Europe during July at 46.1%.

Although the registrations volume fell by 15%, these vehcicles gained market share at the expense of larger declines posted by the traditional cars (-28%), MPVs (-48%) and sport cars (-37%).

Business confidence ‘drives cautious recovery’ in car registrations

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

With the year’s first full month of showroom openings, new car registrations in May reached 156,737 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The total represents an almost eightfold increase on the same month last year, but is down -14.7% on pre-pandemic May 2019, and -13.2% on the 10-year May average.

Uptake was in line with the most recent industry outlook, published in April, which sees the sector anticipating around 1.86 million registrations by the end of the year – with 723,845 achieved so far.

Against a more positive economic backdrop – including OECD forecasting a 7.2% increase in UK GDP during 2021 – fleet registrations grew more than twice as fast as private purchases in May.3 Large fleets accounted for 50.7% of all new vehicles hitting the road, demonstrating improving business confidence compared to the same month last year.

In terms of segments, dual purpose vehicles saw a small decline in market share in the month, down to 26.7%, leapfrogged by lower medium cars which rose to 27.8%. Superminis remained Britain’s most popular car choice, with a 31.1% share.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share declined from 12.0% a year ago to 8.4% in the past month, although the May 2020 performance was distorted by lockdowns when new cars could only be purchased through click and collect or delivery, giving rise to variable purchasing patterns.

Looking more broadly across 2021, plug-in vehicles now comprise 13.8% of new car registrations, up from 7.2% a year earlier, with the most rapid growth seen in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) derivatives. Pure petrol and mild hybrid petrol cars so far account for 60.4% of registrations, while pure diesel and mild hybrid diesels took a 18.0% share year to date, compared to 64.6% and 22.4% last year.

Meanwhile, total registrations for 2021 sit at 296,448 fewer units, or -29.1% less, than the average recorded across January to May during the last decade, evidence of the scale of the recovery still needed given the impact of Covid on the market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “With dealerships back open and a brighter, sunnier, economic outlook, May’s registrations are as good as could reasonably be expected. Increased business confidence is driving the recovery, something that needs to be maintained and translated in private consumer demand as the economy emerges from pandemic support measures. Demand for electrified vehicles is helping encourage people into showrooms, but for these technologies to surpass their fossil-fuelled equivalents, a long term strategy for market transition and infrastructure investment is required.”

Alternative fuel cars hit record sales, but overall market falls

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The UK new car market fell -1.3% in November, with 156,621 models registered, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This maintains the downward trend for new car registrations throughout 2019, as multiple factors, including weak business and consumer confidence, economic uncertainty and confusion over diesel and clean air zones, combined to affect demand.

In November, the decline was driven primarily by weak private demand, registrations down -6.1%, while the business market also fell, down -3.2%, but fleet registrations fared better, up 2.8%. For the second consecutive month, total alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations reached a record market share, with more than one in 10 cars joining UK roads either hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric – equivalent to 16,052 cars. 

Demand for the latest battery electric cars surged by 228.8%, with 4,652 registered, while the markets for plug-in hybrids and hybrids also rose by 34.8% and 15.0% respectively. Elsewhere, petrol grew 2.0%, taking the lion’s share of all registrations (62.2%), as diesel fell -27.2%. Year-to-date, the overall UK new car market is down -2.7%, with 2.2 million cars registered, in line with current industry forecasts.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “These are challenging times for the UK new car market, with another fall in November reflecting the current climate of uncertainty. It’s good news, however, to see registrations of electrified cars surging again, and 2020 will see manufacturers introduce plenty of new, exciting models to give buyers even more choice. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go for these vehicles to become mainstream and, to grow uptake further, we need fiscal incentives, investment in charging infrastructure and a more confident consumer.”

The key data in charts:

Diesel car sales continue to fall as electric rises

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Diesel car sales in the UK fell by another 242,000 in the last year, from 930,000 to 688,000, far outweighing the 131,000 rise in petrol car sales.

That’s according to new data from accountancy UHY Hacker Young, which says the diesel emissions scandal and subsequent ‘demonization of diesel’ has now led to two consecutive years of sharply falling diesel car sales, with this year’s 26% decline matching the 26% fall in 2017/18.

Petrol sales were up by 10% in the past year.

The 688,000 diesel cars sold in the past year represent just over half the 1.27 million sold in 2015/16, prior to the diesel emissions scandal. In the wake of that scandal, several taxes and charges were introduced to discourage diesel car purchases, including increases in car tax and company car tax for diesel cars, and a £12.50 daily charge for most diesel cars to enter the London’s new ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’.

The biggest jump in new car sales in the past year has been seen among battery electric vehicles – ‘pure’ electric vehicles that use no fossil fuels at all. This category saw sales rise 41% from 13,000 in 2017/18 to 18,500 in 2018/19.

3,200 of these battery electric cars were registered by Tesla in the past year, down 24% from 4,200 in the previous year.

The first quarter of 2019 saw the biggest-ever quarter for sales of battery electric vehicles, with 7,000 new vehicles registered. The primary driver was Nissan’s new Leaf model.

Hybrid electric models, such as the Toyota Prius, saw sales rise another 26% to 92,000 in the past year. The category now makes up 4% of all new cars sold.

Paul Daly, automotive partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “Diesel sales have now almost halved in the two years since the emissions scandal – this has changed the landscape of new car sales completely.

“Between the negative perceptions of diesel engines among buyers, and the Government’s moves to discourage diesel through tax, it’s unlikely that diesel sales will recover in the foreseeable future.

“This is a shame, as the latest Euro 6 diesels actually make a compelling environmental case, especially for higher mileage drivers.

“Manufacturers and dealerships will have hoped that petrol sales would make up for the shortfall, but that simply hasn’t happened.

“The accelerating sales growth of battery electric vehicles is great for the small number of manufacturers who have a credible challenger in that market. However, that market is still only a tiny fraction of new car sales overall.

“The real disruptor to the market at present remains hybrids, and battery electric vehicles still have a big gap to close to change that.”

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay