A CALL for the reinstatement of hybrid and electric vehicle grants and a Brexit deal with clarity were among the reactions to today’s SMMT figures for new car registrations in July.
Alex Buttle, director of car-selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: ‘While a 1.4 per cent market share for battery-electric vehicles is small in proportional terms, this level of growth is what we should expect now consumers have made the emotional switch away from dirtier diesel and vanilla petrol models.
‘The government needs to take note. It made a commitment to go electric by 2040, and there is no time like the present to show it is 100 per cent behind that commitment.
“The first step [the prime minister] could take to show that he hasn’t given up on the UK car industry is immediately reinstate the hybrid and electric grants that the government cut last year.’
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said: ‘The decline of 4.1 per cent in new car sales in July shows that the government must secure a Brexit deal which provides clarity to businesses and consumers.
‘Our data suggests that almost one in three UK consumers are undecided about the fuel type of their next car. While franchised retailers continue to work hard to inform their customers, a stable political and economic environment, with clear policies, is essential to support our industry.’
James Fairclough, chief executive at AA Cars, commented: ‘Dealers are finding ways to offset this decline, and many have turned their focus to used cars and aftersales to boost their profit margins.
‘Fortunately, the return on investment in used cars has held up well and there is little evidence of a significant fall in demand in the used car market. We have seen a 12 per cent increase in demand [for second-hand vehicles] over the past three months compared to a year ago.’
Meanwhile, Auto Trade commercial director Ian Plummer said: ‘While the figures show a 4.1 per cent drop, these numbers don’t give a real representation of the market. The best way to describe it is it’s like a calm swan on the surface but actually there’s been a furious amount of pedalling by retailers and manufacturers just to get us here.
‘It’s clearly not all doom and gloom for the industry, though. Despite the challenges thrown at UK car buyers, they remain resilient and still as keen to regularly renew their cars. More broadly, we know that overall consumer appetite remains strong, with 141 million searches taking place across our site last month alone, which compares to 134 million last year.’
Michael Woodward, UK automotive lead at Deloitte, said analysis by the accounting organisation, predicted that a tipping point would happen here ‘by 2021, when electric vehicles are expected to become cheaper than their diesel and petrol counterparts.’
Ian Gilmartin, industry director at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: ‘Summer is always a bit quieter, so traders will be focused on their plans for the plate change in September and hoping that the new administration in Westminster will take steps to give the industry the support it needs to get more cars rolling out of the showrooms before the end of the year.
‘Whether it’s genuine clarity on policy around fuel types or more direct incentives to encourage drivers to upgrade their vehicle, the car sector needs to see something concrete that demonstrates explicit support from the government for the UK’s car traders and manufacturers.’