UK New Car Registrations (SMMT): March 2021: Still A Long Way To Full Recovery!

UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the crucial month of March (number plate change month) shows signs of recovery. However, still one of the worst March trading results since 2005!

The electric driving sector in 2021 has already witnessed an interesting start. The UK government plug-in car grant (PiCG) was reduced in March 2021. The maximum grant now available is £2,500 (reduced from £3,000).

The government is keen to encourage the uptake of affordable electric cars, hence the reason why the criteria for an EV to qualify has also been reduced from £50,000 purchase price (RRP) to £35,000 purchase price (RRP). Best-selling electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 do not qualify for the grant.

tesla model 3
The All-Electric Tesla Model 3 Battery-Electric Vehicle Available To Lease Via e-zoomed

For those of you keen to learn more about zero-emission electric driving, we would encourage a read of the following articles:

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Before moving onto the latest results i.e. the March 2021 new car registrations update, let us briefly remind ourselves of the February 2021 registrations update. 

smmt new car registrations UK
UK New Car Registrations SMMT February 2021 (credit: SMMT)

February 2021 remained upbeat for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), despite an overall challenging trading environment.  

However, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles performance continued to remain weak. Petrol new car registrations were down by 44.5% in February 2021, compared to February 2020.  Diesel performed worse, with a 61.0% decline. Diesel market share decreased from 21.8% in February 2020 to 13.2% in February 2021. Petrol market share declined from 60.6% to 52.1% in the same period.  

audi etron electric car
The All-Electric Audi e-tron GT Available To Lease Via e-zoomed (credit: Audi)

BEV market share increased from 3.2% in February 2020 to 6.9% in February 2021. PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) also witnessed a similar increase from 2.6% in February 2020 to 6.1% in February 2021.

March 2021 New Car Registrations (SMMT)

The March 2021 new car registrations update from The Society of Motor traders and Manufacturers (SMMT), is a continuation of the trend witnessed throughout last year i.e. diesel cars further declining in market share between March 2020 to March 2021 from 17.6% to 10.8%.  

SMMT new car registrations march 2021
UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)

The same is the trend with petrol cars, witnessing a decline from 60% to 48.4% between March 2020 to March 2021. In terms of registrations, diesel registrations declined by 31.4% in March 2021 compared to March 2020, with petrol registrations decreasing 10% in March 2021, compared to 2020. 

SMMT new car registrations march 2021
UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)

However, despite the ongoing lockdown, trading performance has improved, albeit, slightly. Total registrations were up 11.5% compared to 2020, but still one of the worst performing March registrations since 2005 (283,964 registration in March 2021).

We expect trading conditions to continue to remain challenging for the 1st half of the year in 2021, as the UK continues to contain the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Year-to-date the market is lower by 12% compared to 2020, but significantly lower compare to pre-pandemic trading.

Battery-electric vehicle (BEV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) registrations continue to increase, up 74.1% and 93.6%, respectively. However, year-to-date, petrol and diesel registrations are down 28.4% and 46.9%, respectively. It is interesting to note the increase in MHEV diesel and MHEV petrol registrations, up 88.1% and 100.6%, respectively.

SMMT new car registrations march 2021
UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)

However, we do expect the sale of pure electric cars and hybrid electric cars to perform well during this period, if indeed supply risks and bottlenecks are mitigated successfully by automotive manufacturers.

UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)
UK New Car Registrations SMMT March 2021 (credit: SMMT)

Though good to note the all-electric Tesla Model 3 on the March 2021 SMMT Best Sellers list, the lack of zero-emission electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars, is a firm reminder that much work needs to be done by all stakeholders to achieve large scale zero-emission electric driving in the UK.

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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