Wales was the only part of the UK to record a fall in total car registrations last year, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The car sales body reported 56,935 registrations in Wales in 2021, a drop of 4.46% from 2020 when they reached 59,594 but every other part of the country saw sales rise.
Throughout the UK, total figures were 1,647,181 new cars registered in 2021 and that included more BEVs than the combined total over the previous five years in a market which was 1.0% up on 2020 when Covid struck.
The Tesla Model 3 outsold its closest rival, the Kia e-Niro, by three to one and the VW ID.3 was close behind.
Following billions of pounds of investment into new technology by manufacturers, more than 40% of models are now available as plug-ins.
Indeed, the shift in customer preference for these new technologies continues apace, with December seeing BEVs take a record market share in a non-locked down trading month, accounting for 25.5% of all new registrations.
The UK finished 2021 as the third largest European market for new car registrations but the second largest by volume for plug-in vehicles and the second largest for BEVs.
It is only in ninth position overall, however, in Europe for BEVs by market share, underlining the progress still to be made, despite the UK having among the most ambitious targets of all major markets with the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars scheduled for 2030.
Winners & Losers
The most remarkable achievement was Volkswagen taking the top spot in UK registrations last year with 8.97% of share and Audi and BMW close on 7.16% and 7.08%, pushing historic best seller Ford down to fourth place with 7.06%.
MG, Hyundai, Kia and Mazda also ended up on where they were 12 months earlier and the sporting Maserati brand had a lot to shout about with its improvement.
Biggest gain of all was the pure-electric Polestar brand as its sales push got underway with ev sales mounting from virtually nothing two years ago to over 4,000 in 2021.
Among those not enjoying the market last year alongside Ford were Renault and Jaguar dealers with sales slumping from 2020.
Recent announcements, including cuts to both purchase incentives and grants for home chargers, put the achievement of industry’s and government’s net zero ambitions at risk. Furthermore, the slow pace of growth in on-street public charging – where, on average, 16 cars potentially share one standard on-street charger – could put the brake on EV demand and undermine the UK’s attractiveness as a place to sell electric cars.4
|Petrol-powered vehicles, including mild hybrids (MHEVs), remain Britain’s most popular powertrain, accounting for 58.3% of all new cars registered in 2021, with diesel-powered cars including MHEVs making up 14.2% of the market, followed by BEVs at 11.6%, HEVs at 8.9% and PHEVs at 7.0%.
Registrations by private buyers increased by a moderate 7.4%, while those by businesses and large fleets fell by -4.4% and -4.7% respectively, in part due to supply shortages. Superminis remained Britain’s most popular cars, with 514,024 registrations, followed by the lower medium (449,631) and dual purpose (443,632) segments.
2021 best sellers
Vauxhall Corsa 40,914
Tesla Model 3 34,783
MB A-Class 30,710
VW Polo 30,634
Nissan Qashqai 29,922
Ford Puma 28,697
Kia Sportage 27,611
Toyota Yaris 27,415
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “ It’s been another desperately disappointing year for the car industry as Covid continues to cast a pall over any recovery.
“Manufacturers continue to battle myriad challenges, with tougher trading arrangements, accelerating technology shifts and, above all, the global semiconductor shortage which is decimating supply.
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.
“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 roll out 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.”