UK car sales recover for fourth consecutive month

Nissan Qashqai 2022 front quarter cornering

Nissan Qashqai is poised to top the UK sales charts in 2022

Fleet sales drove significant year-on-year improvement through November 2022

The Ford Fiesta displaced the Vauxhall Corsa in the UK sales charts during November, as the market enjoyed its fourth consecutive month of year-on-year growth.

A total of 142,889 cars were registered during November 2022, a 23.5% increase over the same period last year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This was primarily driven by a sharp incline in sales to fleets – up 45.4% from 51,005 in November 2021 to 74,184 in November 2022.

As in previous months, sales of electric cars continued to grow strongly, being up 35.2% on November 2021, from 21,726 to 29,372.

This is likely related to the aforementioned incline in fleet registrations, as EV uptake is heavily incentivised by a low benefit-in-kind tax rate for zero-emissions company cars. It’s frozen at 2% until the 2025-26 tax year, when it will rise to 3%.

Combined with plug-in hybrids, EVs accounted for more than a quarter (27.7%) of the new cars registered during November 2022.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned that further investment in the UK’s public charging network is required to maintain this growth in the long term, so that it’s “built ahead of need”.

Parallel (or ‘self-charging’) hybrid sales also rose sharply, up 66.9% from 9624 to 16,066, with the electrified Toyota Yaris (pictured below) appearing in the top 10 models for the month.

Diesel cars continued their slump, down 5.6% to 5605 sales, although registrations of mild-hybrid oil-burners actually increased by 18.6% to 6141.

Despite the four months of consecutive growth, year-to-date car sales are down by 3.4%, from 1,538,585 by the end of November 2021 to 1,485,601 by the end of November 2022.

This isn’t necessarily a reflection of reduced demand for new cars but of manufacturers’ inability to produce enough product. The semiconductor chip shortage and the lasting effect of other supply issues wrought by the war in Ukraine (such as of wiring looms) continue to swell waiting lists. For example, Jaguar Land Rover recently reported a record order bank of 205,000 cars.

Output of several key models remains strong, however. The Nissan Qashqai took the top spot for the second month in a row, followed closely by the Tesla Model Y.

It should be pointed out that the Model Y’s November success is likely the product of Tesla’s production strategy of batch-delivering cars, which causes it to oscillate between the top and bottom of the sales charts on a month-by-month basis. The American company recently said it had paused the practice because of production shortfalls but appears to have restarted it.

Three superminis followed as the segment grew by 21.5% during November, the Mini hatchback taking 3312 registrations, chased by the Fiesta (2869) and Corsa (2537).

That the Fiesta leapfrogged the Corsa is significant, it returning to dominance for the first time since January 2021. It returned to the top 10 charts last month, just a week after Ford announced the popular model’s cancellation in June 2023.

The supermini trio were chased by the Volkswagen Golf (2516), Ford Puma (2408), Volkswagen T-Roc (2370), Volkswagen Polo (2277) and Yaris (2272).

The Qashqai’s strong month, contrasted with the Corsa’s slide down the charts, means the crossover has widened the gap for the top spot in 2022 to 4535 cars.

Only a monumental resurgence by the Corsa in December – or a total collapse at Nissan’s Sunderland plant – would have it become the UK’s best-seller for a second consecutive year.

The SMMT now forecasts that the UK’s automotive industry will grow by 15.4% in 2023, contributing an additional £8 billion to the economy. “Recovery for Britain’s new car market is back within our grasp,” said Hawes.

However, the industry body recently warned that future growth could be dampened if the government doesn’t help to protect it from threats such as soaring energy prices and protectionist trade policies. The window for intervention could close as soon as 2024, Hawes said.

Source: Autocar

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