UK June car registrations down 35% from 2019, EV sales up: SMMT

The UK’s new car market began a “tentative restart” in June, with electric vehicles continuing to increase market share, but total registrations were still down by over a third from year-earlier levels, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said July 6.

New car registrations reached 145,377 units in June, down 35% from June 2019, “as the market began a tentative restart after more than two months of lockdown” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, SMMT said.

The drop “was an improvement on May’s minus 89.0% wipeout but…this still represented a significant decline of 78,044 compared with June 2019, as dealerships in Wales and Scotland remained closed for much of the month,” the group said.

Registrations of diesel and gasoline vehicles fell by 60% and 40%, respectively, year on year, with EV registrations rising across the board over the same period.

In June, gasoline vehicles had a market share of 60.5%, down from 65.6% in June 2019, while diesel’s market share slumped to just 15.8% from 25.6%. In contrast, battery electric vehicles accounted for 6.1% of the market, up from 1.1% a year earlier, with hybrid EVs up to 7% from 3.8% and plug-in hybrids rising to 3.4% from 1%.

“While it’s welcome to see demand rise above the rock-bottom levels we saw during lockdown, this is not a recovery and barely a restart,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive.

“Many of June’s registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable,” he added.

With one in five car showrooms in England remaining shut throughout June, and those in Wales and Scotland unable to open until the end of the month, “there remains some uncertainty regarding the true level of demand,” SMMT said.

“The hoped-for release of pent-up sales has not yet occurred, with consumer confidence for big-ticket purchases looking weak meaning that automotive is likely to lag behind other retail sectors,” the group said.

For the first half of 2020 the market was almost 616,000 units, or 48.5%, behind the same period last year, with some 240,000 private sales lost since the lockdown took effect, according to SMMT figures.

Year-to-date registrations of 653,502 units represents the lowest level since 1971, the group said.

— Andy Blamey