• New car registrations rise 16.7% to deliver 10th consecutive month of growth as supply continues to improve.
  • Market records longest uninterrupted period of growth since 2015 – but remains -21.0% down on 2019.
  • Drivers continue switch to electric vehicles as BEV volumes grow 58.7% to take 16.9% market share.
  • New light commercial vehicle registrations reach 25,359 units in May, up 15.3% on last year in the fifth consecutive month of rising demand.
  • Deliveries of new battery electric vans grow by a fifth (19.8%) to 1,041 units, as more businesses enjoy the benefits of the latest green tech.

May 2023 best sellers_cars

New car sales grew 16.7% in May 2023

While billions of industry investment is delivering choice and growth, the speed of the shift to EVs needs to accelerate, claims the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as it releases the latest new car registration figures.

The latest data reveals that the UK new car market has posted its longest uninterrupted period of expansion for eight years, as registrations grew 16.7% in May to reach 145,204 units and marks 10 consecutive months of growth, although registrations remain 21.0% below pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Petrol-powered cars remain Britain’s best sellers, accounting for 57.1% of all registrations. However, the SMMT reports that alternatively powered vehicles continue to make up an ever-larger share of the market, with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) rising 23.0% to reach a 6.2% market share and hybrids (HEVs) growing 22.2% to comprise 12.3% of all registrations. Reflecting the dramatic transformation of the market over the last three years, May saw battery electric vehicles consolidate their position as the UK’s second most popular power train. A further 24,513 joined the road during the month, up 58.7% on May last year to secure a 16.9% market share.

Large fleet registrations continued to drive the growth, up by 36.9% to 76,207 units, reflecting a regularisation of supply following challenging supply issues in 2022. Registrations to private buyers fell slightly by -0.5% to 65,932 cars, while smaller business fleets registered 3,065 units, a year-on-year rise of 22.5%.

Of the new cars registered in May, lower mediums, superminis and dual purpose were the most popular, comprising 86.3% of the market. There are now zero emission options available in every single segment of the market, with more than 80 models – around a quarter of all new car models available – from which to choose. Furthermore, these new BEVs have an average battery range of 236 miles, which the SMMT says is well in excess of UK drivers’ average weekly mileage of around 100 miles. 

But the speed of the shift needs to EVs needs to accelerate, stresses the SMMT: from January the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate is expected to come into force, which will set a minimum quota for new battery electric vehicle registrations for every brand. While the models and volumes will be available, ensuring the market demand is there will require action from every stakeholder, it says.

A supportive fiscal framework, simplified planning processes, faster grid connections and the provision of a nationwide network of reliable, affordable and sustainable charge points will give drivers considering the switch the confidence to purchase. Investments are coming but regulated public charger targets commensurate with those for new vehicle registrations would give drivers greater confidence and help accelerate the UK’s zero emission transition.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “After the difficult, Covid-constrained supply issues of the last few years, it’s good to see the new car market maintain its upward trend and the fact that growth is, increasingly, green growth is hugely encouraging. Transforming the market nationwide, however, and at an even greater pace means we must increase demand and help any reticent driver overcome any concerns about electric vehicles. This will require every stakeholder – industry, government, chargepoint operators and energy companies – to play their part, accelerating investment to drive decarbonisation.”

His thoughts were echoed by Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA). She said: “Charging infrastructure across the UK remains the main issue on the showroom floor when Electric Vehicle Approved (’EVA’) dealers are advising customers on their next choice of vehicle. NFDA is working closely with government and other automotive bodies to ensure that UK consumer’s concerns about EVs are being addressed and we are confident that our members will help the UK to achieve the transition.”

Meanwhile, the number of UK light commercial vehicles (LCVs) registered in the UK grew by 15.3% in May compared with last year, reaching 25,359 units - the fifth consecutive month of rising deliveries as the market rebounds from a tough 2022, although registrations remain -13.0% below the pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Registrations of the largest LCVs, weighing greater than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes, rose by 8.3% to 17,173 units, representing nearly seven in 10 (67.7%) new vans, while deliveries of medium-sized vans weighing more than 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes reached 4,143 units, up 57.2%. As fleet operators continue to opt for models with larger payloads, demand for small vans at or below 2.0 tonnes fell by -42.3%, while the number of newly registered pickup vans increased by 13.3%. Meanwhile, deliveries of new 4x4s surged by 698.7% to 615 units last month, which the SMMT said is evidence of the diverse range of LCVs that keep Britain on the move.

The SMMT reported that more businesses switched to zero emission workhorses, too, with the BEV market up 19.7% to 1,041 units, representing around one in 24 new vans. Rising demand means that 7,028 all-electric vans have been registered so far in 2023, an increase of 15.5% on the same period last year. There are now more than 25 electric van models now available in the UK, although demand for electric vans remains some distance behind the new car market, where the BEV market share is three times greater.


May Fuel 2023 and YTD cars

Petrol-powered cars remain Britain’s best sellers, accounting for 57.1% of all registrations.


May Fuel 2023 and YTD LCV

UK light commercial vehicles (LCVs) registered in the UK grew by 15.3% in May - predominantely diesel-powered