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Gloucestershire Business News

ANALYSIS: Autosales bounceback continues, but where are the EVs?

More than a million drivers took the keys for a brand new set of wheels in the first six months of 2024 – marking a record for car dealers and manufacturers not achieved since before the Pandemic.

In reaction to today's new data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) says that the milepost, revealed on the day that voters head to the polls for the next government, is great news for the industry's recovery.

But the NFDA is also sounding a warning on the take-up of electric cars ahead of approaching deadlines for the transition to electric power.

And in unfortunate timing for EV optimists, British autobuilder Ineos has today said it is shelving plans for the scheduled introduction of the Fusilier, which was due to arrive in 2027 in both hybrid and pure EV form.

Delaying the project, Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe said that uncertainty about government plans and weak consumer demands had forced the delay.

Sue Robinson, NFDA Chief Executive, said: "June signals a twenty-third month of consecutive growth for the new car market, concluding a positive first half of the year."

The key headlines from June's sales showed that:

● A total of 179,263 new cars were registered, an increase of 1.1% from the same period last year.

● Sales to private buyers decreased by -15.3%; fleet registrations were up by 14.2%.

● Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) experienced an increase, up 7.4% to 34,034 units. Plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) registrations increased by 30.0% to 16,604 units, and hybrids (HEVs) followed with growth of 27.2% to 26,702 units.

In 2024, 167,096 new BEVs have been registered so far, compared to 152,968 units at the same point last year, representing a 9.2% increase. And with sales of electric growing, diesel fell from 12,911 units to 10,696 units (-17.2%), while petrol notably also fell from 98,894 units to 91,227 units (-7.8%).

While she acknowledged the EV sales growth, Ms Robinson added: "The overall year-to-date market share of electric vehicles remains well below the 22% target stipulated by the Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate."

Crucially, private demand continues to lag behind fleet, she said, making it clear that revitalising the private electric vehicle market is a pressing issue that must be addressed immediately.

Despite the new car market's resilience and evidence of nearly two years' continuous growth, the NFDA is urging whoever wins today's vote to avoid complacency.

Ms Robinson added: "Numerous challenges remain, as detailed in NFDA's General Election manifesto, including the need to reinvigorate the private electric vehicle market as well as address the ongoing skills shortage."

Ms Robinson added: "As the public heads to the polls today, dealerships, through the NFDA, have repeatedly emphasised the importance of these issues in the next government agenda, notably through NFDA's recent General Election survey.

"NFDA urges the next government to work closely with us and the broader industry to tackle the concerns of dealerships and further unleash the potential of this dynamic sector as we enter the second half of the year."

The UK's zero-emissions mandate, as existing legislation, requires car makers to sell an increasing proportion of zero-emission vehicles annually, starting in 2024 and hitting 80% by 2030. The law defines a ZEV as having zero CO2 emissions at the tailpipe and a driving range of at least 100 miles on the WLTP test cycle.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, also added a warning to today's news.

Mr Hawes said: "The year's midpoint sees the new car market in its best state since 2021 – but this belies the bigger challenge ahead. The private consumer market continues to shrink against a difficult economic backdrop, but with the right policies in place, the next government can re-energise the market and deliver a faster, fairer zero emission transition."

He added: "All parties are agreed on the need to cut carbon and replacing older fossil fuel based technologies with new electrified powertrains is the essential step to achieving that goal."

Meanwhile in the latest commercial vehicle production, new data shows that sales fell in May.

The SMMT analysis found:

● UK commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturing declined 59.3% to 4,400 units.

● Output for domestic and export markets fell 52.2% and 61.9% respectively, but exports remained up in the year to date.

● Overall year-to-date volumes dipped by 3.2% to 45,439 units, a fall equivalent to 1,492 units.

Mr Hawes added: "Commercial vehicle production has gone from strength to strength over the last year, driven by increasing demand at home and abroad. The recent downturn is obviously disappointing, but is temporary and, as supply chain disruptions are resolved, output should be back on track."

For the NFDA's perspective, Sue Robinson added: "It is evident that the new electric van market requires government support, particularly since its market share remains lower than it was at this same point last year. As such, there are certainly areas in the van market which will need addressing from the next government."

The NFDA wishlist includes removing unfair regulations for heavier, electric vans and increasing HGV MOT capacity by introducing delegated testing.

She added: "It is crucial that the next government incentivises and increases consumer confidence in electric vans, particularly amidst ZEV mandate targets."

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