Tesla Model 3 becomes UK’s top-selling car as petrol and diesel sales slump

The car industry has been heavily battered by supply chain issues and a global semi-conductor shortage with 2021 seeing a small, one percent, improvement in new vehicle registrations on 2020 but still remaining -28.7 percent below pre-Covid levels. Data released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows one silver lining has been the rapid growth in electric vehicle sales, which the groups says shows the market’s “future direction”. In December the Tesla Model 3 became the best selling car with 9,612 new registrations, over double the second best selling car, the Mini, with 4,625 new vehicles. The Tesla Model 3 also tops the list of best-selling electric vehicles for the whole of 2021 with 34,783 sold.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “Despite the challenges, the undeniable bright spot is the growth in electric car uptake.

“A record-breaking year for the cleanest, greenest vehicles is testament to the investment made by the industry over the past decade and the inherent attractiveness of the technology.

“The models are there, with two of every five new car models now able to be plugged in, drivers have the widest choice ever and industry is working hard to overcome Covid-related supply constraints.”

Petrol cars accounted for 46.3 percent of sales in 2021 while electric and hybrid vehicles climbed to 27.5 percent of the market.

Between 2020 and 2021 the number of diesel sales nearly halved to reach only an 8.2 percent market share.

The UK now stands as the third-largest European market for new car registrations and second largest in terms of volume for electric vehicles.

But it still lags in terms of market share despite having made the ambitious target of ending petrol and diesel sales in 2030.

Mr Hawes commented: “The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure.

“Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the rollout of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want.”

Previous research by the SMMT has revealed the rollout of charging infrastructure is increasingly being left behind by take-up of electric cars by drivers.

According to their analysis only one charger is being installed for every 52 new electric registrations meaning the number of vehicles potentially sharing a public charging point has increased from 11 to 16 per charger.

Looking ahead the SMMT forecast 1.96 million new car registrations in 2022, compared to 1.65 million this year.

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But they note the forecast was based of data before Omicron.

Sean Kemple, Managing Director of Close Brothers Motor Finance, believed 2022’s outlook would be “overarchingly positive” though.

He explained: “When supply issues ease, the used car market will stabilise, and the new car market will be more equipped to meet strong levels of demand.

“The electric vehicle market share will likely continue to accelerate throughout the year as more EV models are brought to market.”

But, like the SMMT, he warned success for electric vehicles would depend on government support in developing infrastructure and helping encourage consumers to make the shift.

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