“Hybrid cars hit the sweet spot in terms of desirability, price, convenience and tech”

Mike Rutherford thinks recent sales show that hybrids are the car of choice for UK customers

Opinion - Honda Civic

November was a genuine game changer – the most significant and revealing sales month of the year for reasons that surprised many, me included.

At the centre of it were new-car buyers able to enjoy the pre-Christmas ‘agony’ of deciding whether to opt for (in alphabetical order) 100 per cent diesel, 100 per cent electric (EV), hybrid, hydrogen, LPG or 100 per cent petrol. A nice ‘problem’ for those paying customers to have, right? Despite the fact that hydrogen and LPG are, sadly, showroom rarities these days.

Based solely on November’s official Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders registration figures, buyers revealed preferences that car manufacturers and politicians will take a huge interest in.

Consumers coughed up the cash to collectively buy more than 1,000 new cars every weekday last month. They ‘knew what they want and knew how to get it’ (apologies to The Sex Pistols). And diesel, electric, hybrid or petrol-powered cars were not only ‘the ones that they want’ (sorry John Travolta and Olivia Newton- John), but the type they’re happy to spend their hard-earned ‘money, money, money’ on (ditto Abba).

Let’s not think of the categories as winners and losers. Although there’s no escaping the fact that only around three per cent of customers are committing to diesels. Crazy when the best, most-efficient, state-of-the-art diesel cars can, if driven gently on a long, clear run, nudge 80-90mpg, wouldn’t you agree?    

Makers delaying EV sales into 2024, when they count towards their EV mandate quota, may have had something to do with this, but more of a surprise was that pure-EVs had an atrocious November. Sales slumped, and fewer than 16 in every 100 new car buyers purchased one. It also meant that the market share for these 100-per cent EVs declined by more percentage points than any other vehicles, diesels included.

A smidge under 40 in every 100  buyers stuck with what they know best by purchasing comparatively old-tech 100-per cent petrol cars. The major reason for their continued success? Price, I reckon. Starting at around £14,000, they’re the least expensive proper cars on the market (not to be confused with sub-£10k quadricycles such as the Citroen Ami).

But the dark horse, hybrid, was the undisputed flavour of the month – with 42 new car buyers in every 100 signing up for one. The vast majority of those bought were petrol-electric, although a handful were of the lesser-known diesel-electric variety.

What’s not to like? These hybrids combine old and new tech; come in cheap mild-hybrid and costlier full-hybrid guises; and the majority are simple non-plug-in versions, although some can be plugged into electricity supplies. Talk about spoiled for choice!

The UK buying public has spoken and clearly stated that the cars it craves above all others are hybrids – whose sales are through the roof. In these final days of 2023, through much of 2024 and possibly for years to come, hybrids are poised to continue hitting the sweet spot in terms of desirability, price, convenience and tech. Think of them as the paying public’s most-wanted new cars on the market tight now – because that’s exactly what they are.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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