Demand for EVs hits record levels, SMMT figures show

Electric Vehicles, News

The UK’s used car market grew by 11.5% to 7,530,956 transactions in 2021 with record sales for EVs, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Nearly 800,000 more cars (777,997) changed hands than in 2020, a year which was badly affected by Covid lockdowns and unsettled consumer and business confidence. Despite this growth, the 2021 performance was still -5.5% below the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Annual demand for battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) vehicles hit record levels, growing by 119.2% and 75.6% to 40,228 and 56,861 transactions respectively. Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) transactions also rose by 50.3% to 137,639, a new high. Growth was driven by an increasing number of ultra-low and zero-emission models filtering through to second owners and, combined, these vehicles represented 3.1% of the market.

Used petrol and diesel powertrain transactions, meanwhile, increased by 10.7% and 9.8% respectively, with a combined 7,277,291 units changing hands. It meant that even with record demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, 96.6% of all used car sales were still either petrol or diesel models, evidence of how far the market must go to meet zero-emission ambitions.

Says Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive:

 “It’s good to see the used car market return to growth, even if activity is still below where we were pre-pandemic. With the global shortage of semiconductors set to ease later this year, releasing the squeeze on new car supply, we expect more of the latest, cleanest and zero-emission models to become available for second owners. The demand for personal mobility has undoubtedly increased during the pandemic, so it’s vital we have healthy new car sales to drive fleet renewal and the used car market if we are to improve air quality and address climate change.”

In terms of segment performance, superminis remained the most popular body type during 2021, taking a third of the market (32.7%), followed closely by lower medium (26.4%) and dual purpose (13.2%), with all segments seeing transactions increase. Demand for dual purpose cars rose most significantly, up 18.3% with almost a million changing hands.

Breaking the trend of the new car market, where grey reigns as the best-selling colour, black was most popular among used buyers in 2021 with more than 1.6 million black cars finding new owners. Silver and blue rounded off the top three with 1.28 million and 1.25 million transactions respectively. At the other end of spectrum, nearly 40,000 yellow used cars changed hands, 20,230 people chose a bronze car and pink trailed in last place, representing nearly 5,000 transactions.


Chris Price
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