Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage was the top selling new car in January

Sales of new cars in the UK remained well below pre-pandemic levels last month, with the market down 22.9% compared with January 2020, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 115,087 new cars were registered, up more than a quarter (27.5%) on January 2021, but this was when lockdown restrictions kept car showrooms shut.

The growth was driven by private buyers, with this segment of the market registering 62,300 new cars, up 64.1%, year on year – and just 5.6% off pre-pandemic levels. Large fleet registrations remained broadly flat with last year at 50,817 units (down 0.4%).

Electrified vehicles continue to lead the growth, with battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) cars accounting for 71.5% of the uplift in registrations. The totals of 14,433 BEVs and 9,047 PHEVs registered, made up 20.4% of the market, and with 13,492 HEVs also registered, almost one in three new cars joining British roads in January was electrified.

Petrol cars remain the biggest sellers, accounting for 44.7% of the market with 51,468 units sold, up 14.6% on January 2021. However, sales of new diesel cars continue to plummet, down 45.8% to 6,008, and they only had a 5.2% market share.

SMMT also revealed that due to the boom in sales of zero and ultra-low emission vehicles, average new car CO2 emissions fell by 11.2%, to their lowest recorded level of 119.7g per km. It is also forecasting registrations of BEVs and PHEVs will grow by 61% and 42% respectively in 2022, meaning that, by the end of the year, almost one in four new cars will come with a plug.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Given the lockdown-impacted January 2021, this month’s figures were always going to be an improvement but it is still reassuring to see a strengthening market. Once again it is electrified vehicles that are driving the growth, despite the ongoing headwinds of chip shortages, rising inflation and the cost-of-living squeeze. 2022 is off to a reasonable start, however, and with around 50 new electrified models due for release this year, customers will have an ever greater choice, which can only be good for our shared environmental ambitions.”