UK DATA: Feb passenger car sales rise 26% on year: SMMT

New car registrations in the UK totaled 74,441 units in February, the seventh consecutive month of growth, with sales rising 26.2% year on year as supply chain shortages eased, according to data released March 6 by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

However, the volume fell 43.6% from January to the lowest monthly volume since August 2022, due to February being typically low volume ahead of the March plate change.

The volume was down just 6.5% on the same month in 2020, according to the SMMT.

“After seven months of growth, it is no surprise that the UK automotive sector is facing the future with growing confidence,” SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said.

“It is vital, however, that government takes every opportunity to back the market, which plays a significant role in Britain’s economy and net-zero ambition,” he said, calling for the upcoming budget to deliver measures that drive the transition to electric vehicles by increasing affordability and ease of charging.

EV sales rise on year

February battery EV sales rose 18.2% on the year to 12,310 units, but were down 28.8% from January to a six-month low.

BEVs made up 16.5% of the total market share in February, down from 17.7% a year ago.

Sales of plug-in hybrid EVs edged up 1.0% from February 2022, but dropped 48.2% month on month to 4,723 units, taking a market share of 6.3%, down from 7.9% a year ago.

However, the market share of hybrid EVs climbed to 12.9% in February from 11.7% a year ago, with sales at 9,633 units, a 40% year on year increase, but down 14.5% from the previous month.

The SMMT said 488,000 PHEVs and BEVs were expected to join Britain’s roads in 2023, with automakers bringing more than 40 new plug-in EV models to the market.

“This will inevitably increase demand for charging infrastructure, however, and while the new GBP56 million ($67.2 million) LEVI [local EV Infrastructure] capability funding is welcome, there remains a clear requirement for binding targets that ensure charge point rollout keeps pace,” it said.

Despite falling since the start of 2023, battery metal prices remain at high levels. Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed seaborne lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide at $64,000/mt CIF North Asia and $71,600/mt CIF North Asia March 6, down 14.7% and 11.9%, respectively, since the start of 2023.

ICE market share remains below 50%

Meanwhile, the market share of internal combustion engine vehicles remained below 50%, with petrol and diesel cars accounting for a combined 47.9% of total new passenger car sales, the lowest since December 2022.

Petrol cars continued to hold the largest market share at 40.6% or 32,311 units, with the market share up from 40.6% a year ago. The volume rose 34.9% year on year, but fell 45.2% from January to a six-month low, according to the SMMT.

Diesel vehicles’ market share fell to 4.5% from 6.6% a year ago, with 3,348 unitssold, down 14.6% on the year and falling 36.6% on the month to the lowest level since April 2020.

— Jacqueline Holman