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UK fleet market shows signs of stability

Fleet registrations in the UK showed more positive signs of recovery in February, despite recording their sixth consecutive month of decline.

The 1.3% decline in fleet registrations in February was less than in recent months

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a total of 43,977 fleet cars were registered last month; down 1.3% on February 2018 but an improvement on the 3.4% decline in January and the 7.9% fall in December, caused by the aftermath of the switch to WLTP as well as ongoing confusion over company car tax.

Meanwhile the sub-25 ‘Business’ sector saw a 23.4% rise to 1,193 units while private registrations were up 4.3% to 36,799 units.

Overall, the new car market rose 1.4% in February to 81,969 units in what’s traditionally one of the quietest months of the year, ahead of the crucial March plate change. The increase helped counter the 1.6% decline in January, bringing the year-to-date downturn to 0.6%.

February also saw demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles continue to surge, up 34.0% and marking the 22nd consecutive month of growth for the segment. Demand was particularly high for fully electric cars, which more than doubled to 731 units, although they still accounted for less than 1% of the market (0.9%).

However, the SMMT noted that in the four months since the October 2018 reform to the Plug-in Car Grant, the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) has only grown by 1.7%, compared with 29.5% over the first 10 months of 2018. This continues to suggest that removing the incentive for PHEVs is impacting take-up.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s encouraging to see market growth in February, albeit marginal, especially for electrified models. Car makers have made huge commitments to bring to market an ever-increasing range of exciting zero and ultra-low emission vehicles and give buyers greater choice. These cars still only account for a fraction of the overall market, however, so if the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed. The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive measures are needed, else ambitions will never be realised.”

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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.