Industry comments on SMMT new car registrations

Ashley Barnett, Head of Consultancy at Lex Autolease

Ashley Barnett, Head of Consultancy at Lex Autolease:

“The new number plate release means March is usually a strong month for registrations, so although today’s fall is disappointing it’s not surprising with all of the current change in the market. Year-on-year, the market has also fallen slightly – and if we compare to this point in 2015, we are down by 4.5% on registrations four years ago with more people extending existing contracts.  This suggests that confusion around future company car tax and WLTP is holding back people from ordering a replacement vehicle. The outcome of the consultation into WLTP and its impact on BIK and VED should provide some clarity when we see this in a couple of months.

“However the spotlight should be on alternatively-fuelled vehicles, and while we’re undoubtedly heading in the right direction with 40,837 registered so far this year – a year-on-year increase of 14.7% – we’re still some way behind where we need to be to reach 1m+ for the government’s 2030 Road to Zero minimum 50% target to be achievable – we need an additional 100,000 new alternatively-fueled registrations each year to enable us to reach this.

“In an environment where there are no grants available for plug-in hybrids and reduced grants for pure electric vehicles, the upfront cost of an alternatively-fuelled vehicle is for some an ongoing barrier to entry.  We would welcome a wide-reaching announcement from Government designed to increase the appeal of low and zero emission driving, including benefits for the used car buyer.  This could be a scheme like our own £1m cashback fund for pure electric vehicles, working with manufacturers to ensure that the falling cost of battery technology is reflected in list prices, or financial support to encourage growth in the second-hand market.

“In Norway, almost 60 per cent of new cars sold in March were pure electric – this demonstrates that in an environment where there is no sales tax on the purchase price and continued tax incentives, it is possible to sustain continued take-up of electric vehicle technology.”

Russell Adams, Commercial Vehicle Manager at Lex Autolease

Russell Adams, Commercial Vehicle Manager at Lex Autolease:

“March is usually a strong month for the LCV market and this year is no exception, with the new number plate release driving demand.  2019 is off to a good start with three consecutive months showing an increase in registrations year-on-year.  The popularity of 4x4s is a trend that looks set to continue, as users look to maximise cost-efficiency with a working vehicle that can fit into their lifestyle outside of working hours.

“Sustained appetite for new LCVs will support the UK on its Road to Zero journey, as regular replacements keep the average age of the country’s fleet down.  With the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) coming into force next month, we’re working with customers to calculate the whole-life-cost benefits if they upgrade to newer, cleaner vehicle technology.  Finding cost-effective ways to keep businesses on the road is key to supporting the country’s economy.

“Although electric vehicle technology continues to evolve, Euro 6 diesels will remain the most practical option for many LCV fleets – and they are exempt from the ULEZ charges.  Having said that, for those with relatively low mileage requirements and access to overnight charging, now is the time to consider alternative fuels, and to unlock further in-life savings on things like road tax, maintenance and fuel.”


Jon Lawes, MD Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions

Jon Lawes, Managing Director, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions:

“A challenging month for the UK car industry has nevertheless seen the transition towards alternatively fueled vehicles, which represent 5.5% of the overall market, maintain momentum.

Our latest research found that 78% of people believe that vehicle emissions are a significant problem in the UK, highlighting the strong potential for AFV growth throughout 2019.

“With the imminent introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and the arrival of more plug-in models set to increase adoption further, addressing shortcomings in charging infrastructure and supporting a transition to greener fleets must be government priorities.”

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