Analysis: 2020 UK car sales hit 28-year low, EV market grows rapidly

The sales decline was particularly sharp in the fleet and business sectors. In December, sales of private cars fell by 26.6 per cent, with fleet sales declining 31 per cent and business sales dropping 41 per cent.

While every sector of the market declined in terms of total sales last year, some performed better than others. Sales of superminis showed the smallest decline in terms of total sales, and the overall market share of such vehicles grew from 29.7% to 31.2%.

“If you think about the effects of Covid with some people coming out of shared or public transport and going into the market for a new or used car, it makes sense in that regard,” said Hawes. “It will be a rocky few months but we hope as the year goes on it gets more positive.”

Sales of specialist sports cars rose by 7.0%.

EV and PHEV sales rise dramatically

The rise in the number of BEVs and PHEVs on sale in the UK helped to significantly increase sales of both last year. A total of 108,205 EVs were sold, representing a 180% year-on-year rise and rising from 1.6% of the overall UK car market to 6.6%. Meanwhile, PHEV sales rose 90% to 66,877, rising from 1.5% to 4.1% of the market.

That means that 10.7% of all cars sold in the UK in 2020 had some level of zero emission running capability and could be plugged in. With standard hybrids included, 17.5% of cars registered in the UK last year were electrified. Sales of mild hybrid petrol and diesel cars both increased.

While encouraging, Hawes noted those figures would need to continue rising given the UK government’s target of banning most internal combustion engined cars by 2020.

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