New car sales grow in April but private EV share falls

Car stuff

  • New car registrations record 21st month of growth, rising 1.0% in April.
  • Battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share rises to 16.9%, sustained by business buyers, as private retail demand continues to drop.
  • New 2024 market outlook revises overall uptake upwards to 1.984m units, but BEV share downgraded to 19.8% as weakened private retail demand moderates expectations.

UK new car registrations grew for the 21st consecutive month in April, rising by a modest 1.0% to reach 134,274 vehicles, according to the latest data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

As a result, this was the market’s best April since 2021, although uptake was still -16.6% below the pre-pandemic level in what is traditionally a low-volume month following the March plate change.

Continuing the trend seen throughout the year, growth was driven entirely by fleets, where registrations rose by 18.5% to reach 81,207 units – more than six in 10 of all new cars registered in April. Private buyer uptake fell by -17.7% to 50,458 units, while business registrations declined by -16.1%, to 2,609.

Electrified vehicles continued to be the main drivers of market expansion. Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) recorded the strongest growth, rising by 22.1% to account for 7.8% of the market, followed by Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), up 16.7% with a 13.1% share of demand.

April was a brighter month for battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations, predominantly due to compelling fiscal incentives for businesses. Overall, BEV uptake rose 10.7%, pushing up market share to 16.9%, a significant uplift on last April’s 15.4%.

While the overall increase in BEV demand is positive, urgent action is needed to re-enthuse private buyers into switching. Fewer than one in six new BEVs bought in April went to consumers, whose uptake volumes fell by -21.9%. Drivers today enjoy the widest ever choice of BEV models – more than 100 – powered by the latest technology, and manufacturers continue to provide compelling offers to encourage their uptake. However, the lack of government incentives for private motorists remains a barrier that cannot be overcome by industry alone, claims the SMMT.

While tax incentives have proven to deliver a rapid shift to BEVs in the fleet market, this level of support hasn’t been provided to private buyers. Temporarily halving VAT on new BEV purchases would help more than a quarter of a million drivers to switch from fossil fuel to electric over the next three years, claims the SMMT.

It also says action is needed on infrastructure, with nationwide chargepoint installation essential for consumer confidence. While last year saw more chargepoints installed than ever before, there is currently just one standard charger available for every 35 plug-in cars on the road – a negligible improvement on 2022 when the ratio was one for every 36.,

Such actions are crucial as, based on current conditions, the latest market outlook shows a diminishing share for BEVs despite a growing overall new car market. 1.984 million new cars are now anticipated to be registered in 2024 – a 4.2% rise on last year, and a 0.5% increase on January’s outlook. However, BEV volumes for this year have been revised downwards by -5.2%, with anticipated market share now 19.8%, significantly below the government target of 22% per manufacturer under the Vehicle Emissions Trading Scheme.

Says Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive:

“Although attractive deals on EVs are in place, manufacturers cannot fund the mass market transition single-handedly. Temporarily cutting VAT, treating EVs as fiscally mainstream not luxury vehicles, and taking steps to instill consumer confidence in the chargepoint network will drive the market growth on which Britain’s net zero ambition depends.”

Chris Price
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