New Car Market Update December 2020

Rob Donaldson | 14 Dec 2020

About the author

Rob Donaldson

UK Car Editor

Born in Acton, London, Robert worked for several blue-chip organisations including Compaq, British Airways and 3M. Of interest, Robert also owned a repair garage with his brother in the 90s with whom he restored Classic cars, before joining Glass’s in 2006.

As expected ‘Lockdown-2’ in England and similar restrictions across the rest of the UK hurt the new car market in November. Total registrations fell by 27.4% or 42,840 units compared to November last year, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This equates to a year-to-date drop of 663,761 units or 30.7%.

This hit was not as bad as in ‘Lockdown-1’ where restrictions decimated registrations, as the industry has had time to implement ‘Click and Collect’ and other socially distanced delivery options, to keep the sales cogs turning.

Diesel sales continue to dissolve, down 56.2% to just 15,925, while mild-hybrid diesel registrations only increased by 7.9%, to 4,719 units. The two totals combined mean diesel cars achieved only 18.1% market share, down from 26% in November last year. The figures for pure diesel engines are a long way from their peak of 52% in 2012, as shown in the chart below.

Diesel car market share graph November 2020
Data courtesy of SMMT

The results were far more positive for alternative fuel cars, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) increasing their volume over last year by 122.4% and 76.9% respectively. BEVs enjoyed their third-highest ever monthly market share at 9.1%, while PHEVs also built their share up to 6.8% for the month. This means zero-emission capable cars almost outnumbered diesel and mild-hybrid diesel.

Looking forward to December, the relaxation of lockdown rules with the potential of three COVID-19 vaccines may boost consumer confidence. Add to that a positive resolution to Brexit negotiations (still not concluded at the time of writing) and some end of year sales and marketing drives, and the year may end on a high, giving hope that 2021 will be positive for the automotive industry in the UK. If the Government does not secure a free-trade agreement, we may be in for a bumpy ride.

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