The UK new car market limped to a stable level in November amid the ongoing supply issues caused by the global chip shortage. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed the market grew by a mere 1.7 percent last month, compared with the Covid-ravaged November of 2020.

Although incremental growth might have been seen as a positive step a few years ago, it now makes grim reading for those in the new car business. With just 115,706 new cars registered last month, the market was down 31.3 percent compared with the pre-pandemic average for the month.

That said, the SMMT says there is some promising growth in the plug-in car sector, with sales of battery electric vehicles more than doubling compared with last November. Almost 22,000 new electric cars were registered last month, meaning zero-emission cars accounted for 18.8 percent of the total market.

2022 Hyundai Kona Electric

At the same time, sales of hybrid cars were also up by more than a third, while plug-in hybrid sales rose by around 40 percent. Together, hybrids and plug-in hybrids accounted for 17.6 percent of the market as a whole.

As a result, electric cars have now accounted for 10.6 percent of all new car sales during the first 11 months of 2021. Plug-in hybrids and hybrids account for 6.9 percent and nine percent respectively – up from 3.9 and 6.8 percent at the same point in 2020. That increase means more than a quarter of new cars registered this year have come with some form of electric motor, be they hybrid, electric or plug-in hybrid.

Toyota Prius

Even so, there’s no disguising a disappointing year for the new car market as a whole. Over the first 11 months of this year, just over 1.5 million new cars have been registered, leaving the year up 2.7 percent compared with 2020. By the end of November 2019, more than two million new cars had been registered in the UK.

“What looks like a positive performance belies the underlying weakness of the market,” admitted the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes. “Demand is there, with a slew of new, increasingly electrified, models launched but the global shortage of semiconductors continues to bedevil production and therefore new car registrations. The industry is working flat out to overcome these issues and fulfil orders, but disruption is likely to last into next year, compounding the need for customers to place orders early.

“The continued acceleration of electrified vehicle registrations is good for the industry, the consumer and the environment but, with the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution, irrespective of where they live.”

New cars at dealer showroom