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New car registrations hit 20-year high in February after 19 months of growth

The UK car market sees continuous growth despite the rapid diesel decline. EV sales to private buyers are up 21% year-on-year

DVLA V5C document and car keys

2024 is looking rosy for the UK new car market as registrations of vehicles once again rose in February, recording a 19th consecutive month of growth. Last month was the first February new car registrations returned to pre-Covid and chip shortage levels, but it was also the best performance in the calendar month since 2004. 

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The primary reason for this growth has been an increase in fleet sales with registrations up 25.2 per cent, while business demand was up 15.5 per cent. In contrast to this, private uptake was down 2.6 per cent with a 33.7 per cent market share. Still, a strong February is good news for the UK car market considering buyers traditionally wait until March to get their hands on the new number plate

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 2024 has seen a 10.3 per cent increase in new car registrations compared to this time last year. Diesel continues its long decline showing a 9.2 per cent drop with petrol heading the other way by a similar proportion with a 9.5 per cent increase. 

Electrified vehicles are continuing to grow in popularity with fully-electric vehicles up 21.3 per cent compared to 2023, plug-in hybrids up 30.4 per cent and hybrids up 3.3 per cent. As a whole EVs now make up 36.7 per cent of new car registrations in the UK market. 

The upcoming budget announcement this week is expected to benefit motorists with an extended freeze on fuel duty. This could potentially push buyers towards petrol and diesel vehicles away from electrified ones but a rumoured reduction in VAT on electric cars or EV charging would have the opposite effect. 

As for the most popular cars sold this year so far it’s a familiar list to previous years. 2023’s best-selling car, the Ford Puma, sits on top of the rankings, closely followed by the Kia Sportage which finished fourth last year. The Nissan Qashqai (2022’s biggest seller) is third so far this year. 

Now read more about the UK's best-selling cars....

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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