Some experts believe that we have reached 'peak car' and from here on, there will be a gradual decline in global sales. This 'auto recession' has been felt across the globe in 2019, with the market dropping four per cent overall, driven in-part by the previously burgeoning Chinese and Indian markets stagnating. Other uncertainties, such as Brexit, US trade wars and the now globally-recognised climate crisis have been nibbling away at consumer demand as well.
According to automotive forecasters, LMC Automotive, global sales were down by almost five million compared to the record set in 2017. And whilst in 2020 the same forecasters see things improving slightly, their best estimate are still a 0.3 per cent drop in sales vs 2019 by the end of the year which would mean a total of less than 90 million sales globally.
Don't read the slow-down in global car sales as an entirely bad thing, though. Whilst petrol and diesel decline, EVs are very much on the up. With the exception of the USA where EV sales were down by 30,000 by the end of 2019, the major global regions have all seen increases in demand.
Some markets will do better than others, admittedly. In China, for example, government subsidies for buyers in Beijing are being reduced, and in the US the current administration is busy trying to turn back the clock on progress with regards fuel efficiency rules. Despite this, the glut of high-profile EVs hitting the market in the USA should see momentum pick back up again. Tesla's Model Y should be in big demand and help carry the market on its own.
It's Europe where the big gains are forecast to be made. BloombergNEF forecasts that by the end of 2020 electrified car sales will have grown by 32 per cent on 2019 levels, with Norway, Germany, Netherlands, France and the UK making up the top five markets. By the end of 2019, EV registrations had doubled in number across Europe compared to the start – up from 1.5 per cent in 2018 to 3.1 per cent in Q3 2019.
The performance of car sales in this country during 2019 mirrors the global trends quite well. Overall registrations were down by 2.4 per cent, but EV demand was up 144 per cent, with nearly 39,000 registered – more than double the number registered in 2018. Of course, this still represents less than two per cent of the overall market, but the UK does have a few things going for it.
This country is rated as the third best in Europe in terms of readiness for the transition to EVs, trailing those bastions of progress, the Netherlands and Norway. Car leasing giant, LeasePlan, has created a readiness index which looks at the number of EVs registered, maturity of infrastructure, government incentives and the number of EVs LeasePlan itself has sold.
The UK scores especially well for government incentives and charging maturity, but falls down slightly in terms of overall sales. The second hand market is also extremely buoyant – so much so that there is actually a supply issue, despite a near three-fold increase in supply, according to Auto Trader. It observed a 78 per cent increase in online searches for EVs and AFVs but this apparent desire among buyers isn't matched by available stock.
Just 3.4 per cent of available stock on Auto Trader is made up of AFVs, of which 0.5 per cent is EVs, yet nine per cent of total searches are made in the AFV category. This demand has ensured that values remain high, with a 2.6 per cent increase in like-for-like values for AFVs in 2019 vs. 2018, and a whopping 12.9 per cent increase for pure EVs.
We're not surprised that electric vehicles are making inroads into global car market shares. Across the globe countries and individuals are realising the severity of the climate crisis and are making the switch. However, perhaps more importantly on an individual level, people are finding that they're no less convenient than traditional cars to own, and in terms of day-to-day running costs are actually an awful lot cheaper. Couple these factors with some very high-profile EV launches in 2020 and we have a recipe for a bumper year.