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Gloucestershire Business News

Spoiler alert: could stutter on EV sales hit car business?

Boosted by an 11.6% increase in new model sales for April, the UK car industry has revised its prediction for growth in the remainder of 2023: it now believes the market can achieve 1.83 million sales.

The previous forecast, back in January, was for 1.79m sales and the difference is calculated to bring forecast growth up to £3.2bn.

The upbeat data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveals that April sales added 132,990 new car registrations. In terms of volume, it's a 17.4% drop on the pre-pandemic period of 2019, but the figure marks the best April since 2021.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "The new car market is increasingly bullish, as easing supply chain pressures provide a much-needed boost."

However, he warned that the broader economic conditions and chargepoint anxiety are beginning to cast a cloud over the market's eagerness to adopt zero emission mobility at the scale and pace needed.

The automotive sector, says the SMMT, is less optimistic about growth in demand for battery electric cars and has downgraded their expected 2023 market share from 19.7% to 18.4%, with high energy costs and insufficient charging infrastructure anticipated to soften demand.

The latest outlook for 2024, meanwhile, suggests 22.6% of new car registrations will be BEVs – a downward revision from the 23.3% forecast in January.

With a zero-emission vehicle mandate due to come into effect next year, Mr Hawes warned that greater and faster investment in infrastructure, and more incentives to encourage purchase are essential to drive consumer confidence and accelerate uptake.

"To ensure all drivers can benefit from electric vehicles, we need everyone - government, local authorities, energy companies and charging providers - to accelerate their investment in the transition and bolster confidence in making the switch," he said.

Large fleet registrations are the clear engine for the better news: growth for April was 33.1% and the count for sales over the year to date indicates a 39% boost.

But behind this data – and revealing how challenging the market is for Gloucestershire's dealerships – the retail market for private car sales actually dropped by 5.5% to 61,342 units in April, the year to date figures showing an overall 0.9% sales decline.

EVs accounted for more than one in three sales in April, while petrol cars took 58.1% of the registrations pie. 

Ford's Puma was the top-selling car for the month with 3,570 units sold, although Ford does not yet offer a planned electric version of this compact SUV – you'll have to wait until 2024 for that option.

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