BMW 225xe Active Tourer

Drop in low emission car sales

The government’s removal of key ultra-low emission vehicle incentives, an overall decline in buyer confidence, and confusion over diesel and low emission zones have been blamed for a drop in the sales of low emission cars in June.

Green Car Guide’s editor, Paul Clarke, has just completed another UK tour giving talks about electric vehicles, and the feedback from the audiences is that people are not buying cars because there are so many uncertainties, with Brexit being at the top of the list, but also lack of clarity about EV incentives, future BIK tax rates, best fuel type and low emission zones all being cited. 

The question has to be asked, does the government have any awareness of the problems it is causing for the UK car industry, and the negative impact it is having on the Road to Zero, the UK’s strategy to supposedly be a “world leader in zero emission vehicles”. This aspiration is very questionable, if progress in the UK is compared with that of EV development in countries such as China, Germany and even America.

According to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), plug-in hybrids continued the recent downward trend, falling by a massive -50.4%, while hybrids also fell, by -4.7%. The performance tipped the overall alternatively fuelled vehicle sector into negative growth for the first time since April 2017, undermining efforts to reduce emissions through fleet renewal of the latest ultra low emission vehicles. This is despite ongoing investment, which has enabled manufacturers to offer British car buyers more choice than ever before with more than 350 models now available in the UK – 44 of them plug-ins.

The month saw growth for petrol and battery electric registrations, up 3.0% and 61.7% respectively, but this was not enough to offset the continuing decline of diesel, which fell for the 27th month in a row (-20.5%). 

There are now a growing range of powertrain options, including advanced low emission petrols and diesels, and an ever-greater number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen cars. Another option increasingly available is mild-hybrid technology, which provides an energy boost to traditional internal combustion engines, helping to improve fuel efficiency and lower CO2. To highlight these advances, SMMT’s monthly registrations data now includes a breakdown of the different technologies now being registered.

UK new car registrations declined for a fourth consecutive month in June, with year-on-year demand falling by -4.9% to 223,421 units; 1,269,245 new cars joined British roads in the first half of the year, down -3.4%.

Demand fell in all sectors, with private registrations seeing a decline of -4.8%, while larger fleet and business registrations also fell, down -2.5% and -37.1% respectively. Declines were also seen across every vehicle segment, except Dual Purpose which grew 9.1% in June and 7.3% year-to-date to take 22.6% of the market. However, Supermini remains the UK’s best-selling segment, making up 31.0% of all registrations in the first six months.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Another month of decline is worrying but the fact that sales of alternatively fuelled cars are going into reverse is a grave concern. Manufacturers have invested billions to bring these vehicles to market but their efforts are now being undermined by confusing policies and the premature removal of purchase incentives. If we are to see widespread uptake of these vehicles, which are an essential part of a smooth transition to zero emission transport, we need world-class, long-term incentives and substantial investment in infrastructure. Fleet renewal remains the quickest way to address environmental concerns today and consumers should have the confidence – and support – to choose the new car that best meets their driving needs, whatever the technology, secure in the knowledge that it is safer and cleaner than ever before.”

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