The market share of new plug-in cars has fallen slightly as overall new car registrations in March bounced back by 18.2% to deliver the best new plate month performance since before the pandemic.
According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) 287,825 units were sold, leading to the eighth consecutive month of growth for the new car market.
This also resulted in the strongest sales performance since 2019, with just under half a million new cars sold, but this was still significantly below pre-pandemic levels, down 29.5% on the first quarter of 2019.
Petrol-powered vehicles remained the most popular fuel type, comprising 56.3% of new units, while battery electric vehicle (BEV) deliveries reached a record monthly high of 46,626, representing growth of 18.6%.
Overall, the BEV market share remained almost the same as last year at 16.2% and, with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) registrations growing by 11.8%, plug-in registrations comprised 22.4% of the market – a slight decline on 2022. The biggest growth, however, was in hybrids (HEVs), with a 34.3% surge helping electrified vehicles account for more than one in three registrations for the month.
Sales of new diesel cars were down 19.9% to 11,024 giving them a market share of just 3.8%.
The Tesla Model Y was the best-selling model with 8,123 registrations, although it was only fourth for the year to date behind the Nissan Qashqai, Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Corsa.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “March’s new plate month usually sets the tone for the year so this performance will give the industry and consumers greater confidence. With eight consecutive months of growth, the automotive industry is recovering, bucking wider trends and supporting economic growth. The best month ever for zero-emission vehicles is reflective of increased consumer choice and improved availability but if EV market ambitions – and regulation – are to be met, infrastructure investment must catch up.
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: “The first quarter of 2023 has been positive for UK new vehicle sales. It is extremely encouraging to see sales figures starting to emulate pre-pandemic trends, particularly for the plate change month of March and consecutive months of optimism and growth.
“As supply constraints start to ease and waiting times for products begin to fall, dealers are finding it easier to sell their stock to customers. While there are a prominent range of pressures facing the sector, including unprecedented levels of inflation, cost of living crisis and the fall out of the Russia-Ukraine crisis still affecting global supply chains, cars are still regarded as a necessity to many, whether it be for commuting or day-to-day life, and this will always be the strongest asset for franchised dealers.
“NFDA expects current trends to continue into Q2, with electric vehicles maintaining popularity among consumers with growing market share. Ten years to date, alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV) held a minute 1.3% of the market share, selling 5,318 units in March 2013. In March 2018, five years ago, AFV market share had grown to 5.1% with 24,126 units sold. Today, it is extremely positive to see electric vehicles now a dominant driving force within the UK market, recording a market share of (35.4%), with 101,811 units sold and franchised dealers are undoubtedly a pivotal factor in driving this trend. Franchised dealers with their Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) accreditation are at the forefront of EV retail and continue to help consumers enter and navigate the EV market.”