New car sales 2023: slow private EV uptake builds demand for government incentives

Latest figures for August 2023 show the fleet electric purchases are surging in the UK while private buyers are reluctant to make the switch

August new car registrations leaped by 24.4 per cent compared to last year, with 85,657 new vehicles hitting the road in the UK. But while fleet sales surged by 58.4 per cent, registrations to private motorists fell back by 8.1 per cent, even compared to last August’s figure which was limited by industry supply issues. 

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) for ‘electrified vehicles’ - including everything from mild hybrids to full EVs in industry parlance - accounted for 38 per cent of new registrations in the month, while battery electric (BEV) car registrations was up 72.3 per cent for a 20.1 per cent share of the market total. Plug-in hybrid sales rose by a similar 70 per cent, while mild hybrids sales were more stable with 6.8 per cent growth.

The news on latest figures, while encouraging from the fleet sales perspective, leaves the industry increasingly concerned about the potential content of impending Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate rules. These will detail government expectations for the numbers of zero emission vehicles manufacturers must sell, and while they’re due to come into force in 2024, the government still hasn’t provided details of the rules it intends to implement. This and the lack of private drivers apparently ready to make the EV switchover, has led SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes to call for urgent action on both issues.

“Recovery is underway with EVs energising the market. But with a new Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate due to come into force in less than 120 days, manufacturers still await the details. Businesses cannot plan on the basis of consultations, they need certainty. And now, more than ever, government must match action to ambition, ensuring there are the incentives and infrastructure in place to convince drivers to make the switch,” he says.

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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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