Businesses boost EV growth as private sales remain sluggish


  • New car registrations up 1.7% in May in 22nd consecutive month of growth.
  • Battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share rises to 17.6% in the month and 16.1% YTD.
  • Retail BEV uptake declines less than overall private market as manufacturers subsidise ongoing transition.

The UK new car market marked its 22nd consecutive month of growth as registrations rose 1.7% in May, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

With 147,678 units reaching the road, it was the best May market performance since 2021, although it remains down some -19.6% on 2019.

UK car registration figures for May also offer a glint of hope for manufacturers struggling to convince private buyers to make the transition to electric vehicles – EV sales in the retail sector only dropped by two per cent compared to May last year, while the retail sector overall fell 12.9 per cent.

Fleets and businesses continued to fuel market growth, up 14.0% and 9.5% respectively, narrowly offsetting a -12.9% decline in private retail uptake. While deliveries of both petrol and diesel cars fell, demand for electrified vehicles rose.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) recorded the highest growth of all powertrains, up 31.5% to reach an 8.0% market share, and hybrids (HEVs) rose 9.6%, maintaining their status as the third most popular fuel type after petrol and battery electric at 13.2% of the market.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations also outperformed the market, rising 6.2% to claim a 17.6% market share, up from 16.9% in the same month last year. Uptake is still driven by the fleet sector, where volumes rose 10.7%. Private retail BEV uptake, meanwhile, fell by 2.0% (just 98 registrations short of May last year).

This performance, although encouraging, is still below the trajectory mandated on manufacturers by government in its Vehicle Emissions Trading Scheme, which demands 22% of new vehicles sold this year by each brand must be zero emission. With a choice of more than 100 EV models now available, and a raft of compelling offers, manufacturers are dedicated to driving change, but meeting targets will require more support, claims the SMMT.

Says Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive:

“As Britain prepares for next month’s general election, the new car market continues to hold steady as large fleets sustain growth, offsetting weakened private retail demand. Consumers enjoy a plethora of new electric models and some very attractive offers, but manufacturers can’t sustain this scale of support on their own indefinitely. Their success so far should be a signpost for the next government that a faster and fairer transition requires carrots, not just sticks.”

Chris Price
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