New car market sees strongest February in 20 years

Couple buying a new car from dealership

Did you buy a new car last month? 

If so, your purchase contributed to the highest February sales the UK’s new car market has seen in 20 years. 

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), nearly 85,000 new cars were registered last month – a 14% markup on the same period last year. 

This is not a result of private uptake, however, but rather fleet and business purchases. 

Businesses continue to bolster new car sales 

The SMMT reported that February was the 19th month of consecutive growth, largely owing to fleets investing in new vehicles. 

Fleet registrations rose by 25.2% last month, and business registrations by 15.5%, accounting for the entire market increase seen in February. 

Private uptake continued to struggle, however, with a 2.6% decline to record a 33.7% market share. 

February is a low-volume month for the new car market as new number plates are introduced in March, bringing about a massive surge thereafter in private sales. 

Electric vehicles sparking interest 

The demand for electric vehicles rose by 21.3% in January and February, but again was sustained entirely by fleets because of tax incentives. 

Private buyers accounted for only 18.2% of the EV registrations recorded. 

The SMMT is urging Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to halve VAT on the purchase of new EVs, amend plans to introduce vehicle excise duty for EVs, and reduce VAT on public charging to bring it in line with home charging. 

Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “The new car market’s ability to deliver growth continues with its best February for 20 years.

“This week’s budget is an opportunity to ensure that growth is greener.

“Tackling the triple tax barrier as the market embarks on its busiest month of the year would boost EV demand, cutting carbon emissions and energising the economy.

“It will deliver a faster and fairer zero-emission transition, putting Britain’s EV ambition back in the fast lane.” 

Still looking for your perfect vehicle upgrade? Find out which were the UK’s most popular cars in 2023. 

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