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Fleet registrations hit by chip shortage in August but EVs surge

New car registrations fell 22.0% in August as the sector still battles chip shortages, but electric vehicle demand continued to rocket.

Fully electric, hybrids and plug-in hybrids accounted for nearly a third (30.1%) of new car registrations in August

Just 68,033 new cars were registered in the traditionally quiet August month – falling to a level not seen since August 2013 and down 7.6% against the average recorded over the last decade.

Fleet registrations were hard hit and fell 27.5% to 33,315 units, according to the data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). A bigger decline was seen in business registrations for sub-25 fleets, which declined 34.7% to 947 units.

Private registrations saw the least impact, falling 15.2% to 33,771 units. As a result, just under half (49.6%) of all sales in August were accounted for by private consumers.

The SMMT said August’s decline was in part due to constrained supply as the global shortage of semiconductors continues to hit production volumes. Last month saw software provider VNC Automotive warn the global semiconductor shortage is likely to outreach and outlast the Covid-19 pandemic, as the industry weathers the ‘perfect storm’.

But the SMMT figures show August demand for battery electric (BEV), hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles soared – they were up 32.2%, 45.7% and 72.1% respectively and accounted for nearly a third (30.1%) of new car registrations in August.

Year-to-date, total registrations were up 20.3% for the first eight months of the year, with fleet up 24.2%. But the comparison is skewed due to the Covid-hit 2020 market, when showrooms were closed for much of the year. And when looking at the 10-year average, total registrations so far in 2021 are down 25.3%.

The SMMT said August’s decline was “disappointing, albeit not wholly surprising”.

Chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “The global shortage of semiconductors has affected UK, and indeed global, car production volumes so new car registrations will inevitably be undermined. Government can help by continuing the supportive Covid measures in place currently, especially the furlough scheme which has proven invaluable to so many businesses.

“As we enter the important September plate-change month with an ever-increasing range of electrified models and attractive deals, buyers in the market for the new 71-plate can be reassured manufacturers are doing all they can to ensure prompt deliveries.”

General consensus within the automotive and fleet sectors is that the figures show a clear message from drivers about wanting to go green – and that the Government needs to maintain momentum on incentives and support.

Lucy Simpson, head of EV enablement at Centrica Business Solutions, said: “With the 2030 phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles now firmly set in stone, encouraging EV uptake needs to remain our top priority. The Government’s recent Transport Decarbonisation Plan and other commitments have put down a strong marker for the UK’s electrification journey, however we must ensure that EVs remain accessible for all.

“This includes speeding up the roll-out of on-street charging to avoid large swathes of the population being left behind on the road towards an electric future.”

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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. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

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