February sees highest UK new car sales figure in 20 years

The UK government has announced it is temporarily reintroducing the Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) due to the continuing delays in manufacturing supply chains, including the conflict in Ukraine and the global semiconductor shortage.

The UK saw a significant surge in new car sales in February, marking the highest figure for the month in 20 years. This growth was primarily driven by companies investing in electric vehicles for their fleets, although private uptake of EVs experienced a decline.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), new car registrations rose by 14% year-on-year to reach 84,886 vehicles in February. This performance represents the best February result since 2004 and marks the 19th consecutive month of growth in the sector.

The increase in new car sales was particularly notable for electrified vehicles, with hybrid electric vehicles experiencing a 12.1% rise and plug-in hybrids posting a significant growth of 29.1%. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) also saw a strong increase of 21.8%, accounting for 17.7% of registrations.

However, it’s worth noting that the rise in EV uptake was primarily driven by fleet purchases, as private buyers accounted for less than a fifth of new BEVs sold during the period. Concerns among consumers regarding the cost of electric vehicles, battery longevity, and charging infrastructure availability continue to influence private uptake.

The SMMT emphasised the importance of stimulating private demand for EVs and suggested several measures to achieve this. These include halving VAT on new EV purchases for three years, amending proposed vehicle excise duty changes, and reducing VAT on public charging in line with home charging. The organization argued that addressing these issues could accelerate the transition to greener vehicles and contribute to carbon emission reduction goals.

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, highlighted the opportunity presented by the upcoming budget to facilitate a greener growth trajectory for the automotive sector. Addressing barriers such as the “triple tax barrier” and incentivising EV adoption could pave the way for a faster and more equitable transition to zero-emission vehicles in the UK.