The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that the UK's new car market declined 44.4 per cent in March. This is a huge drop – representing 203,370 fewer cars registered – not only in absolute terms, but also in the context of March being the plate change month during which we'd expect to see healthier sales.
According to the SMMT, this drop is worse than any seen during the 2008/2009 financial crisis and the worst March since the late 1990s when the UK changed to the bi-annual plate change system. The figures themselves make for pretty eye-watering reading; private registrations down 40.4 percent, fleet registrations down 47.4 per cent and business registrations down 61.1 per cent. For the year-to-date, the market is down 31 per cent.
However, there is some good news in amongst all of this: EVs and PHEVs have both continued to climb during March. Pure EVs were up 197.4 per cent during March compared to 2019, with 11,694 registered representing a 4.6 per cent market share. PHEV registrations grew 38 per cent compared to last year, giving them a 2.7 per cent month market share. For the year-to-date EVs are up 204.4 percent with a 3.8 per cent market share, and PHEVs are up 59.2 per cent with a 2.8 per cent market share.
As the UK drags itself out of the Coronavirus crisis over the coming months there's further good news for those buying an EV in that waiting times from order to delivery should be as-near-as-makes-no-difference the same as petrol and diesel cars. This is according to What Car? research, with the magazine having found waiting times have significantly fallen over the past year.
Compared to the horror stories of 12 month waiting times we were hearing about last year, What Car? has found that the average waiting time for a new EV is around 12 weeks, matching that of petrol and diesel models. Of the 26 major EVs on sale in the UK today, 16 could be on your drive within 12 weeks, with many – including the Tesla Model 3, Renault ZOE and MG ZS EV – available from stock in less than one week.
Something else that What Car? has observed is that some EVs are also being sold at a discount for those savvy enough to go and look for a deal. Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car? said: “As the new car market recovers from the coronavirus crisis, many of the most popular electric vehicles can be delivered as quickly as a petrol or diesel vehicle, which is a real boost for prospective buyers keen to get on with electric motoring. What’s also encouraging is that some of the newest and most popular EVs can be had with a healthy discount, according to our Target Price research.”
Car awards are a bit of an anachronism nowadays. They've always been a bit naff, with dubious winners crowned thanks to the... ahem... level of generosity of the manufacturer towards judges rather than their car's merits. Even this year's winner of the World Car Awards Car of the Year – the Kia Telluride (we had to Google it too) – seems to offer no advancement in any way whatsoever in the global automotive agenda when it comes to design, emissions, dynamics, manufacturing innovation... we could go on.
That aside, car makers still clamour for them, and in the 2020 World Car Awards EVs have done well. Alongside its dubious winner, Kia's Soul EV was named World Urban Car of the year. Judges praised its bold design, compact proportions, high levels of practicality and impressive zero-emissions performance and range. Whilst we've not yet tested the Soul EV, the Kia e-Niro with which it shares so much, received full marks when we reviewed it, so we can only imagine the Soul EV is every bit as good.
Many of us expected it to take the ultimate crown of World Car of the Year, and to be honest it probably should have been, but the Porsche Taycan was still recognised by winning two awards this year. First and foremost, it took the 2020 World Performance Car award which follows Porsche's previous wins in the category (2006, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017) and is the first EV to take the prize. In fact, the top three in the World Performance Car category were all Porsches, so the company couldn't really lose.
The second award given to the Taycan was the World Luxury Car award. Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche, said: “The Porsche Taycan was designed with a clear purpose: To show that an electric car could provide the performance, driving pleasure and everyday comfort and usability that characterises every Porsche. We are very proud that the international jury of the World Car Awards believes that we have succeeded.”
For context, the World Car Awards are judged by 86 foremost motoring journalists from 24 countries across the world, each of whom is appointed by a steering committee based on their experience, credibility and influence.