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UK January auto sales rise 27.5% on year; EV still growing

Friday, 04 February 2022

New car registrations in the UK totaled 115,087 units in January, rising 27.5% from January 2021 when showrooms were shut due to lockdowns, according to data released Feb. 5 by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The January volume was also 6% higher than registrations carried out the previous month, although the SMMT pointed out that sales were still below pre-pandemic levels and 22.9% lower than January 2020 registrations, due to the continuing semiconductor chip shortages.

"This month’s figures were always going to be an improvement but it is still reassuring to see a strengthening market," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said.

Electrified vehicles continued to drive growth, despite the ongoing headwinds of chip shortages, rising inflation and the cost-of-living squeeze, Hawes added.

Battery electric vehicles sales at 14,433 units made up a 12.5% market share, up from 6.9% a year ago. The volume more than doubled from January 2021’s 6,260 units, but fell 47.9% from December.

Sales of plug-in hybrid EVs rose 47.3% year on year and 8.5% month on month to 9,047 units, taking a market share of 7.9%, up from 6.8% in January 2021.

The market share of hybrid EVs climbed to 11.7% in January, up from 7.5% a year ago, with sales at 13,492 units, a 98.1% year on year increase and also 55.3% higher than the previous month.

The UK market now offers more than 140 plug-in car models, with almost 50 more scheduled for release in 2022, the SMMT said.

"Cutting CO2 even further, however, will require more drivers to switch to electric and other zero emission technologies," it said, adding that a lack of charging infrastructure was still a challenge.

"Furthermore, as manufacturers strive to bring down the costs of these new technologies, government support through purchase incentives and reduced motoring taxes can help accelerate the take-up so that the road transport sector can meet society’s net zero timeline," the SMMT said.

In November, the UK government introduced new legislation to compel new homes and building, including supermarkets and workplaces, to install EV charge points from 2022, which will support the government plan to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars in the UK by 2030.

Meanwhile, the market share of internal combustion engine vehicles remained below 50% for the third straight month, with petrol and diesel cars accounting for a combined 49.9% of total new passenger car sales in January 2022.

Petrol cars continued to hold the largest market share at 44.7% or 51,468 units, although this was down from 49.8% a year ago. The volume rose 14.6% year on year and was 22.4% higher than December’s volume, according to the SMMT.

Diesel vehicles also lost market share to 5.2% from 12.3% a year ago, to 6,008 units, down 45.8% on the year, but up 15.5% on the month.

Higher sales forecast for 2022, 2023

The SMMT also released its new car registration outlook to 2023 on Feb. 4, in which it forecast UK sales to climb 15.2% year on year in 2022 to 1.9 million units and then to rise further to 2.1 million units in 2023.

The outlook was set against the uncertain economic environment and supply issues, with the ongoing semiconductor shortage, a cost-of-living squeeze, rising manufacturing cost base and increasing taxes and interest rates from April, the SMMT said.

BEV sales in the UK were forecast to jump 61% in 2022 to 307,000 units, with the market share also expected to rise to 8.6%. Sales will rise further in 2023 to 393,000 BEVs.

Sales of PHEV are expected to increase 42.2% to 163,000 vehicles in 2022, a market share of 8.6%, and then move higher to 242,000 units in 2023.

The SMMT forecast HEV registrations to climb 34.2% in 2022 to 198,000 units, a market share of 10.4%, with further increases to 242,000 units in 2023.

-- Jacqueline Holman

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