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Three battery electric cars sold for every one new diesel car in September

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The UK new car market has recorded its weakest September since 1998 ahead of the introduction of the two-plate system in 1999, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Some 215,312 cars were registered in the month, a -34.4% fall on September 2020, when pandemic restrictions were significantly curtailing economic activity.

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September is typically the second busiest month of the year for the industry, but with the ongoing shortage of semiconductors impacting vehicle availability, the 2021 performance was down some -44.7% on the pre-pandemic ten-year average.

However, September was the best month ever for new battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake. With a market share of 15.2%, 32,721 BEVs joined the road in the month, reflecting the wide range of models now available and growing consumer appetite.

Indeed, the September performance was just over 5,000 shy of the total number registered during the whole of 2019.

(Table: SMMT)

Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) share also grew to 6.4%, meaning more than one in five new cars registered in September was zero-emission capable.

Meanwhile, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) grew their overall market share from 8.0% in 2020 to 11.6%, with 24,961 registered in the month.

(Table: SMMT)

Looking at market segmentation, private demand was down -25.3% with 120,560 new registrations in the month, but a bigger fall was recorded in large fleets, which declined by -43.1% to 90,445 units.

As a result of the month’s disappointing performance, registrations year to date are now only 5.9% ahead of 2020 figures, and -29.4% down on the pre-pandemic decade-long average.

(Table: SMMT)

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said, “This is a desperately disappointing September and further evidence of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic on the sector. Despite strong demand for new vehicles over the summer, three successive months have been hit by stalled supply due to reduced semiconductor availability, especially from Asia. Nevertheless, manufacturers are taking every measure possible to maintain deliveries and customers can expect attractive offers on a range of new vehicles.

“Despite these challenges, the rocketing uptake of plug-in vehicles, especially battery electric cars, demonstrates the increasing demand for these new technologies. However, to meet our collective decarbonisation ambitions, we need to ensure all drivers can make the switch – not just those with private driveways – requiring a massive investment in public recharging infrastructure. Chargepoint roll-out must keep pace with the acceleration in plug-in vehicle registrations.”  

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RAC director of EVs Sarah Winward-Kotecha said: “Against a backdrop of generally poor new car sales, September was a milestone month when it came to battery electric models with nearly as many sold in one month as were sold throughout the whole of 2019. Plug-in cars now account for 16% of all new car sales so far this year.

“What’s more, sales of electric cars have eclipsed diesel sales by a huge margin with three battery electric cars sold for every one new diesel car that went onto the road. This now looks like the end of the road for diesel as nearly 67,000 fewer diesel cars were registered this September than was the case in September 2019, representing an astonishing 86% drop in just two years.

“These figures show there’s clear momentum when it comes to electric car adoption in the UK, but had it not been for the chip shortage which is hampering new car production, the numbers may well have been even higher.

“Fortunately, when it comes to EVs there are a variety of ways drivers can now make the switch in a more affordable way, not least through leasing schemes such as those offered by the RAC.”

(Lead image: RAC)

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