• Some 156,525 cars were registered last month - just 96 units down on Nov 22
  • Jump in the number of new models snapped up by fleets drives registration rise
  • EV sales slipped by 17% - and just a quarter were bought by consumers as appetite wanes 

The number of new cars registered in Britain last month increased 9.5 per cent but appetite for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to slip, official figures show.

Some 156,525 new cars were registered in November, up from 142,889 in the same month a year ago, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders data shows.

Last month's total was just 96 (0.1 per cent) cars down on 2019 pre-pandemic levels, the trade body announced.

However, it is largely fleets that are driving the increased demand for new motors - and EV sales went into reverse last month, declining by 17.1 per cent.

The SMMT said fleet registrations rose by 25.4 per cent in November, however, demand from private buyers and businesses fell by 5.9 per cent and 32.7 per cent respectively in the month.

The data also shows the slowdown in demand for electric cars, with just 24,359 registrations compared to 29,372 in November 2022. 

That said, last November's EV figures were heavily inflated by the arrival of a fresh batch of Tesla Model Y SUVs, which has become the nation's - and Europe's - best-selling EV.  

The market share of EVs shrank to 15.6 per cent, slipping from 20.6 per cent a year ago.

Fleets, buoyed by compelling tax incentives on EVs, continue to drive registrations, while fewer than a quarter (22.6 per cent) of new electric cars entering the road last month were in the hands of private buyers.

For 2023 so far, EV market share is down to just 16.3 per cent, compared with 15.1 per cent at the same point in 2022.

This is - worryingly for car makers - a long way short of the 22 per cent Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate requirement as of next year, which will see mainstream manufacturers penalised if they do not meet binding electric car sales target. 

READ MORE: Nissan confirms £2bn electric car investment in Britain: New Qashqai, Juke and Leaf EVs to be made in Sunderland

Nissan last month confirmed a £2billion investment in Britain that will see it produce two new EVs and continue to make the next-generation Leaf at its Sunderland plant.

The Japanese car maker's new fully electric Qashqai and Juke crossover models will be manufactured at the North East site, which originally opened back in 1986. 

Nissan will make a 'direct investment of up to £1.12billion' to fund the move, while the rest will be provided by partners such as battery supplier AESC.

It is understood that the total financial package - which will also fund the building of an additional battery making 'gigafactory' - does include significant government backing, although terms of this have not been disclosed.

The investment will provide a fresh boost for the company's EV36Zero project infrastructure and support thousands of jobs both in the North East and the UK's wider supply chain.

> Read more about Nissan's huge new investment in Britain 

The ZEV mandate threshold will rise each year from 2024 to 80 per cent by the end of the decade and 100 per cent by 2035 - the year the Government intends to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

Failure to abide by the rule or make use of flexibilities, such as carrying over allowances from previous years, will result in a requirement to pay the Government £15,000 per polluting car sold above the annually-increasing limits.

And in a double blow for the sector, industry bosses are extremely concerned that new 'rules of origin' post-Brexit tariffs arriving in a month's time will make EVs even less attractive, especially to consumers.

The SMMT has estimated the tariffs will push higher the price of EVs by an average of £3,400, which will make it increasingly difficult for car makers to sell more of them to meet the ZEV mandate targets.

As such, the trade body this morning reiterated its calls for the tariffs - due to be introduced in 1 January - to be postponed.

The tariffs of 10 per cent are due to be imposed on exports of electric cars between the UK and EU if at least 45 per cent of their value does not originate domestically.

Most manufacturers will struggle to meet this threshold as battery production within Europe has not increased as quickly as hoped.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: 'Britain's new car market continues to recover, fuelled by fleets investing in the latest and greenest new vehicles.

'With car makers gearing up to meet their responsibilities under new market legislation, and Cop28 currently under way, now is the time to take sensible steps that will multiply that economic growth and minimise carbon emissions.

'Private EV buyers need incentives in line with those that have so successfully driven business uptake – and workable trade rules that promote rather than penalise the transition.'

Ian Plummer, commercial director at online vehicle marketplace Auto Trader, said: 'November's drop in electric vehicle sales is a sign of what's to come if the Government doesn't support the industry in making the transition by incentivising consumers on this journey, as we know private electric car registrations have been lagging that of the fleet sector for a while now.'

Colin Walker, head of transport at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, said the dip in sales 'could well be a consequence of the dent in consumer and industry confidence that followed the UK Government’s U-turn on the 2030 phase out date earlier in the year'. 

In terms of model demand, Ford's Puma was the best-selling car in November with 4,298 registrations last month. This has helped to increase the crossover's lead at the top of the 2023 sales charts over the Nissan Qashqai and will likely secure Ford's return to number one spot for the first time since 2020.

And November proved a difficult month for EVs, there were better fortunes for both conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, with registrations rising by 27.8 per cent and 55.8 per cent respectively. 

Year to date, the overall market remains up 18.6 per cent year-on-year at almost 1.8 million units.

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