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One million cars sold in first half of 2024, but private sales fall as EV uptake falters

The car industry wants the next government to support consumers with tax-funded new car subsidies

Latest industry figures show the new car market grew by 1.1 per cent in June 2024, with 179,263 new car registrations meaning the half-year total has broken the one million mark for the first time since 2019.

So far, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, this year has seen 1,006,763 new cars hit the road, which is a rise of 6 per cent against the same period last year, but still down by a chunky 20 per cent on the 2019 pre-Covid figure.

Once again it's the fleet market doing the heavy lifting, with registrations up 14.2 per cent. Private buyers, hit by the double-whammy of the cost of living crisis and the high cost of new cars, accounted for 15.3 per cent fewer registrations. That means so-called ‘retail buyers’ - the consumers shelling out hard-earned cash - accounted for fewer than 38 per cent of UK sales.

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‘Electrified vehicle’ sales continue to escalate, with what the SMMT calls ‘robust growth’; plug-in hybrid sales were up 30 per cent to 9.3 per cent of overall registrations, while hybrids grew 27.7 per cent to a 14.9 per cent share. Fully electric car sales rose more slowly, by 7.4 per cent, but accounted for 19 per cent of the market in June.

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Most worryingly for industry, private uptake of EVs continues to falter, down to 10.8 per cent for the year so far, and fewer than 20 per cent of all new EVs are being sold to private buyers. Overall, EV uptake remains behind the 22 per cent level mandated by Government this year, at just 16.6 per cent for the half-year, but the figure is slightly higher than the 16.1 per cent recorded this time last year.

The SMMT has renewed its calls for more government action to support private purchases of EVs through tax subsidies, including its suggestion that VAT should be halved on new electric car sales for a period of three years - a measure it says would increase private EV sales by up to 300,000 units. It also wants VED (road tax) re-jigged so EVs avoid the so called ‘expensive car supplement’ hitting the segment from next April.

“The year’s midpoint sees the new car market in its best state since 2021 – but this belies the bigger challenge ahead,” says SMMT chief exec Mike Hawes. “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.”

Looking to buy a new car? Learn more about the top 10 best-selling cars here...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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