New car registrations fell by 30% in 2020, but it was ‘a bumper year’ for battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars.
Annual registrations fell to 1,631,064 units, down 680,076 units (29.4%) on the year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The trade body said this was the lowest level of registrations since 1992.
According to the SMMT, the industry suffered the equivalent of £20.4bn in lost turnover ‘against a backdrop of COVID restrictions, an acceleration of the end of sale date for petrol and diesel cars to 2030 and Brexit uncertainty’.
Private vehicle demand fell by 26.6% overall, with 31.1% fewer vehicles joining large company car fleets.
Battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars together accounted for more than one in 10 of the number of registrations that were made – up from around one in 30 in 2019.
Demand for battery electric vehicles grew by 185.9% to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids rose 91.2% to 66,877.
The SMMT said there is room for further growth as most of these registrations (68%) were for company cars, ‘indicating that private buyers need stronger incentives to make the switch, as well as more investment in charging infrastructure, especially public on-street charging’.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘2020 will be seen as a lost year for automotive, with the sector under pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over future trading conditions taking their toll.
‘However, with the rollout of vaccines and clarity over our new relationship with the EU, we must make 2021 a year of recovery. With manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months, we will work with government to encourage drivers to make the switch, while promoting investment in our globally-renowned manufacturing base – recharging the market, industry and economy.’
The SMMT said ongoing tough restrictions across the UK will further impact the industry but that with a trade deal with the EU now in force, the industry has avoided a ‘catastrophic’ no-deal scenario and can plan for a future with more certainty over trading conditions.