UK on course for best year of car sales since 2019

The UK is on course for its best post-pandemic year of car sales after more than a million were registered in the first half of 2024.

If that trend continues, the country would break the two million mark for the first time since 2019, the current benchmark sales year, when 2.3 million registrations were recorded.

Although the 1,006,763 registrations for the first half of 2024 is 20.7% down on the same point in 2019, figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show it is 6% up on 2023.

For June, sales were up a modest 1.1% to 179,263. As in previous months, this growth was driven by fleet sales, where uptake rose by 14.2%. This counteracted the ninth consecutive month of private sales decline (down 15.3%). Retail buyers accounted for fewer than four in 10 new cars registered (37.7%).

The decline in private sales has been blamed on “a difficult economic backdrop” by SMMT chief Mike Hawes, who used the figures to call for support from the next government, especially to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.

For June, EV sales rose 7.4% on May, again outpaced by the more popular plug-in hybrids (up 33%) and hybrids (up 27.2%). 

Despite the modest rise, pure-electric cars recorded their highest monthly share of total registrations so far this year (19%), but this was again driven by fleet sales. Private EV sales were down 10.8% compared with June 2023.

“The next government can re-energise the market and deliver a faster, fairer zero-emission transition,” said Hawes. “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.” 

He added: “The year’s mid-point sees the new car market in its best state since 2021 – but this belies the bigger challenge ahead.”

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