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Fleet and private registrations tumble in January

Both private and fleet demand fell in January, resulting in a 7.3% decline in overall new car registrations, although alternatively fuelled vehicle uptake continued to rise.

Plug-in hybrid registrations rose 111.1% in January

Released just a day after the UK Government revealed its plans to bring the ban on new petrol/diesel cars and vans to 2035, the figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a total of 149,279 vehicles were registered last month compared to 161,013 in January 2019 – with the decline attributed to continued confusion surrounding diesel and Clean Air Zones and ongoing weak consumer and business confidence.

Private registrations were hit the hardest, with a 13.9% decline, while fleet registrations were down by 2.2%. However, business registrations to sub-25 fleets were up 4.2%.

Registrations of new diesel cars fell for the 34th month, down by 36.0% and now on the same level as in 2000 – prior to the switch to CO2-based taxation – accounting for just 19.8% share of the market. Meanwhile petrol demand also declined, by 9.5%.

With all eyes on battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake – now it’s been revealed that hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be included in the petrol/diesel new car and van ban – the SMMT figures show that BEV registrations continued to surge, up 203.9% to 4,054 units and gaining a 2.7% market share.

Combined registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles accounted for 11.9% of the market in January – the highest on record and up from 6.8% in the same month last year.

However, the figures also show that hybrid electric cars increased by +20.6%, with 8,941 hitting British roads, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) demand more than doubled, up +111.1% to 4,788 units.

As a result, the SMMT continues to highlight how hybrids and plug-in hybrids “have a vital role to play in the transition to zero emission transport” as it says an outright ban will hamper innovation and hold back progress.

It also continued to call for the Government to help ensure “a massive and urgent uplift in public charging infrastructure” and to make a long-term commitment to the Plug-in Car Grant – which is currently set to expire in March and which the SMMT says should be extended to cover all ULEVs, including plug-in hybrids which were eliminated from the PiCG in October 2018.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Consumer confidence is not returning to the market and will not be helped by government’s decision to add further confusion and instability by moving the goalposts on the end of sale of internal combustion engine cars. While ambition is understandable, as we must address climate change and air quality concerns, blanket bans do not help short-term consumer confidence. To be successful, government must lead the transition with an extensive and appropriately funded package of fiscal incentives, policies and investment to drive demand. We want to deliver air quality and environmental improvements now but need a strong market to do so.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006.