Value brands dominate new year sales charts as hopes rise for easing of car price rises

Badge snobbery could be a thing of the past as affordable brands dominated January’s sales charts and new car registrations grew by nearly 15%, says The Car Expert.

The trend for cheaper and greener vehicles which emerged last year saw MG secure two spots in the top-10 and other value marques overshadow their prestige counterparts, with Vauxhall, Kia, Hyundai and Ford all featuring among the best sellers in January.

However, the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed a drop in private new car sales (4.3%), albeit a small one considering the ongoing squeeze on household budgets.

Fleet sales, meanwhile, surged again, recording a significant year-on-year uplift of nearly 37% fuelled improved supply and greater confidence.

The monthly statistics signify the best start to the year since January 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the market. The results also represent the sixth successive month of growth.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations rose by nearly 20% year-on-year, achieving 13% of new registrations which was slightly below the average recorded for 2022.

However, after a record December in which it sold around 15,000 cars, Tesla’s alternative approach – which sees large peaks and troughs in sales across the year – skewed electric car results in January after it shifted just 600 units during the month.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) recorded a 0.7% rise, although their share of the market fell to below 7%.

Stuart Masson, Editorial Director at The Car Expert, said: “We may be speaking too soon but it looks like badge snobbery could be on its way out. Consumers who would usually opt for a prestige model are looking elsewhere – they want value for money, not a status symbol.

“While buyers are increasingly unconcerned by the badge, the likes of MG, Dacia, Ford and the Korean brands are capitalising. And this desire to maximise value for money might translate to EVs soon as 2023 may be the year in which they finally become more accessible to more buyers.

“With Tesla recently slashing prices by upwards of £7,000 and brands like Vauxhall offering zero per cent finance deals on all of its models – including EVs – this will have an impact on the rest of the market, forcing other brands to reduce the cost of their electric vehicles. The used car market for EVs is also set to improve, with new car prices dropping and more used EVs available second hand, there will be greater supply.”

With buoyant fleet sales yet again, this should mean that supply issues continue to ease, meaning reduced waiting times and better new car deals as well as lower used car prices later in 2023.

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