Buyers clinging to petrol cars over EVs in worrying signs for car industry

Continued growth in new car registrations (up 26%) has been driven by fleets recording a near 50% rise says The Car Expert, while private new car sales have failed to keep up.

The analysis of the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveals that while businesses appear to be rapidly catching up lost ground, private sales eased upwards by just 6%. Overall sales have risen for the seventh consecutive month, however.

What is more concerning is that the vast majority of this growth has been for petrol-powered new cars, which have increased market share, while electric and plug-in hybrids have lost market share. This suggests that buyers are prioritising the lower purchase price of petrol cars over the lower running costs and environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

February is typically a low-volume month for car sales ahead of the March number plate change, but sustained growth in the new car market over the last half-year should see used prices start to ease as supply improves and more vehicles hit the second-hand market.

The picture could be about to improve for new car prices and finance deals according to the UK’s most comprehensive automotive consumer advice site. The Vauxhall Corsa and Mokka were the two best-selling cars in February, coming after the brand reintroduced 0% finance offers across its range. A much rarer sight than before the COVID-19 pandemic, other manufacturers may follow suit with cheap finance offers.

The popularity of petrol-powered vehicles remains high as sales rise by a third (35%) compared to February last year – an increase of more than 11,000 cars. Their market share for the year-to-date is over 43%, nearly 3% higher than in 2022. Increasingly seen as just a stopgap, plug-in hybrid cars remain relatively unpopular with buyers as their year-to-date market share declines from nearly 8% to just above 6%.

Electric vehicle sales so far this year are only on par with last year, recording exactly the same market share of 14% in 2023 so far, which is underwhelming given the drive to phase out petrol and diesel models in less than seven years.

Stuart Masson, Editorial Director at The Car Expert, said: “It is encouraging that we are seeing consecutive months of growth, and while we don’t want to reach the sometimes unsustainable levels we’ve seen in the past, for consumers this will mean improved availability and more new car deals on offer.

“We’ll likely see the used market settle in coming months as leasing companies and businesses de-fleet vehicles in greater numbers, and it is great to see Vauxhall introduce bold 0% finance offers – with its result this month, this could trigger more deals across the board.

“Although February results need to be taken with a grain of salt with March being far more important, these results are troubling for electric car adoption and follow similar results in January.

“The data shows that overall new registrations were up by 15,000 units in February, but 11,000 of these increased sales were petrol-powered cars. EVs improved by less than 2,000 sales, so we’re seeing petrol cars increasing in market share while EVs have gone down. This is going the wrong way.

“Looking ahead to March, we expect to see Tesla shifting a lot of EVs, which should ‘balance the books’ to a certain degree. But other brands will need to start growing their EV sales to make the necessary inroads on fossil-fuelled vehicles. There are always high expectations in March from across the industry, a lot will be riding on next month’s results and it will be interesting to see how flexible brands become with offers, and whether EV sales increase more rapidly.”

4 thoughts on “Buyers clinging to petrol cars over EVs in worrying signs for car industry”

  1. BMW and another company have just won an appeal against the EU to
    Continue making petrol and diesel cars! Electric is not the answer! I have also heard discussions about introducing a tyre tax. That means EV’s will be taxed, EV’s are too expensive, poor safety and charging is too slow and there are too many broken chargers around the country!

  2. lower running costs of electric cars a typical electric car with a 54kwh battery costs around £18 to charge and returns around 150 miles of average driving, where as £18 of petrol will give you over 200 miles in most cars and remember the petrol car is not effected by temperature and can fill up at any petrol station. the infrastructure is not in place for plug in electric vehicles the technology is not far enough advanced for most of the general public.
    i personally think and this is just my personal opinion the switch from I.C.E to electric vehicles should have come in stages with self charging hybrid vehicles being the bridge between the two this would have allowed the battery technology to be developed and tested in the real world.
    A great deal of the people i have spoken to do not have a specific place at home to charge an electric vehicle which means that they would have to bear the cost of charging there own cars through a third party and as third party charging comes at a premium this increases the running cost I do agree that we have to switch from I.C.E vehicles to another form of transport however in the current climate the average working person is more concerned with paying bills and keeping food on the table than switching from a vehicle that can do well over 400 miles on one fill up of the tank that can be filled up anywhere and a spare can of fuel can be carried in your hand or in the car itself in case of emergencies, than a car that can maybe do 200 miles depending on temperature road conditions vehicle load in fact its all just a maybe a gamble.
    no sensible person takes a gamble over a certainty.
    and from my own investigation the minerals needed for the current battery technology are not themselves enviromentally sustainable.
    even our current electric infostructure in the uk is not enough for our current usage without electric cars there are approximately 53,000,000 people in the uk over the driving age limit and over 30,000,000 registered cars both figure taken from google search imagine if all 33,000,000 all plugged there cars in between 3 pm and 7pm daily the load on the national grid would it cope after all the national grid struggle on a yearly basis most people know someone that has recently been effected by a blackout caused by nothing more that an overloaded grid.
    we all have to make a change for the future of our planet however this change has to be sustainable or it will cost our planet more in the long run.

  3. Policing Through

    Let us unpack this article. EV cost half as much again as ICE. I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fall off in sales. EVs need somewhere to charge. That rules out streets of terraced houses and flats with limited parking.

    Portsmouth City Council is very proud to point out that there is a charging point no more than a 5 minute walk from anywhere in the city. Perfect. I have a 5 minute walk, in the rain, humping the weekly shop for a family of 4. Sorry, no. Then there is the knotty question of what if the charging point is already taken. How long will the walk be then? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? Oh, I forgot to mention, it is blowing a hooly and tipping down with rain.

    I have a few trips coming up. I am off to Wales, well beyond Cardiff and also to Derby. Neither trip could be made in an EV without planning a charge each way en route. How long will the charge take? Will the charging point be free? Indeed, will it work? Suddenly, tanking up on departure and again on arriving back home becomes impossible. So how much extra time will I need to factor in for the journey? Well, it all depends, but it would be prudent to allow at least 50% longer. A 4 hour journey becomes at least 6 and a 1 day journey becomes 2. Of course, if there is just one charger on route and it is broken, a fairly common occurrence, you are obliged to make substantial detours to find power. You might not make it. Letting the charge drop much lower than 40% is riddled with risk. Given that the first 20% gives you the best range (batteries discharge exponentially), you might well have to factor in two charge stops. The 6 hour trip has just got longer and joy of joys, you can look forward to the trip home.

    As for running costs, the price of electricity has gone through the roof and public charging now costs more than petrol.

    These things are fine for pottering about town but useless for anything else. No wonder people are moving away from them. Equally, no wonder the second hand values are taking a hit.

    Battery powered cars are, with a few exceptions, completely pointless and stupid. It will be impossible to buy an ICE car after 2030. Will people switch to electric? Doubtful, because the problems will remain. So they will keep their ICE vehicles going and will probably be very surprised how long they last. I have two, one 33 years old and the other 20 years old. They are doing fine and will run on for many more years yet. As for parts, as long as there is demand, someone will fill it, so not worries there either. My training car is 7 years old and coming up 100,000 miles. I have no intention of changing it.

    Electric cars are also incredibly complex. While they work, fine, but when they break, may your God have mercy upon you because the cost will be eyewatering. Furthermore, Li Ion batteries are managed by software. It that goes wrong, the battery will continue heating up until it bursts into flames and very spectacular that is too. Alas, such fires are very hard to put out and the ecoloons want us to have warehouses full of these things!

    Meanwhile, in Holland the government is driving farmers off the land because nitrogen levels are too high. Never mind feeding the population and a lot of Europe at an affordable price. Just shut it down to save the planet. How about working with the farmers to deal with the nitrogen problem, assuming it even exists, which is unlikely.

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