New car registrations plunge by nearly 40 per cent in January

Jack Evans, PA Motoring Reporter
·2-min read

New car registrations fell by 39.5 per cent in January, representing the worst start to a year since 1970.

New figures released today (Feb 4) by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that just 90,249 cars were registered during the month.

January brought 59,030 fewer registrations compared with the same month in 2020, with demand by private buyers and large fleets falling by 38.5 and 39.7 per cent respectively. Registrations for both petrol and diesel cars also dropped by 62.1 and 50.6 per cent respectively.

However, the uptake of battery electric vehicles grew by 2,206 units in the month – 54.4 per cent – to take 6.9 per cent of the total market. It comes as the number of available EVs nearly doubled from 22 in January 2020 to 40 this year. Combined with plug-in hybrids, these electrified vehicles accounted for 13.7 of total registrations in January.

The lockdown restrictions currently in place across the UK have been reflected in the SMMT’s market outlook. The SMMT had expected two million new cars to be registered in 2021, but this has now been downgraded to under 1.9 million – though this forecast does represent an increase of 15.7 per cent compared with that of 2020.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Following a £20.4 billion loss of revenue last year, the auto industry faces a difficult start to 2021. The necessary lockdown will challenge society, the economy and our industry’s ability to move quickly towards our ambitious environmental goals.

“Lifting the shutters will secure jobs, stimulate the essential demand that supports our manufacturing, and will enable us to forge ahead on the Road to Zero. Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming.”

The SMMT also predicts that demand for battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will continue to grow, with their combined market share expanding from just over one in 10 new cars currently to more than one in seven.

It would continue a trend for low-emissions vehicles which saw 2020 record the largest fall in average car CO2 emissions, according to the SMMT. With more than half of all battery electric vehicles registered in the past two decades joining UK roads in 2020 alone, average vehicle CO2 dropped to 112.8g/km in 2020, representing a fall of 11.8 per cent on 2019 and 37.7 per cent on the year 2000.