My Urban Car

UK Car market report for December & full year 2019

Full year 2019 highlights

  • UK total car sales were down 2.4% to 2.31m which is the lowest since 2013.
  • Petrol cars increased their dominant share from 61.9% of UK car sales in 2018 to 64.8% in 2019. 2019 Petrol MHEV sales were 1.1% so essentially petrol is 65.9%
  • The headline diesel share of the car market fell to 25.2% in 2019 from 31.5% the year before. However the SMMT has been messing about and now shows “diesel MHEVs” (a diesel with a better starter motor) separately. Add them together and you get 31.7% diesel share in 2018 falling to 26.6% in 2019. So a fall but not enough to make air less toxic to breathe.. Towards the back end of 2019 diesel share inc MHEV was stabilising at around 25%
  • UK Battery electric car sales (BEV) are for 2019 doubled from 0.7% in 2018 to 1.6% for 2019. This doesn’t sound like much and it isn’t but it doesn’t tell the whole story. See below.
  • In 2018 year plugin hybrid sales (PHEVs) outsold Battery Electric BEVs by 2 to 1 PHEV’s fell from 1.8% to 1.6% share. Why? While they did lose government grants, PHEV’s are a stepping stone for some buyers until they are confident enough to buy a BEV. As markets develop and accept BEVs they tend to drop PHEVs and UK is no exception. In addition BMW & VW withdrew nearly all their BEVs from sale from Sept 2018 to Sept 2019 so you couldn’t buy one if you wanted to!
  • Hybrids that don’t plugin are still growing to 4.2% from 3.5% in 2018. While the Toyota “self charging” ad campaign was misleading it does seem to have kept hybrids in the game. It’s worth bearing in mind that cars like the Prius & C-HR are very efficient compared to non hybrid combustion cars offering city fuel economy usually around the 65 to 75MPG mark.
  • Total AFV sales not counting MHEVs is 7.3% for full year 2019
  • Pure combustion engine car sales inc MHEVs are falling overall and are likely to continue to fall from now on but still dominate

UK electric cars & the arrival of Tesla

The annual figures for pure EV sales in the UK seem a little disappointing but they don’t tell the story. August saw the arrival of the Tesla Model 3 in the UK in volume. The effect it’s had on the market has been dramatic. Sales of EVs in the UK have tripled since it arrived. Specifically:

  • In December Tesla had risen from 29th to 19th in the UK sales charts out of 43. It is now outselling well known brands brands like Fiat, Alfa Romeo, DS, Mazda, Jaguar, Honda, Porsche, Lexus, Smart and Mazda.
  • The Model 3 entered the UK top 10 selling car chart in August and December
  • December EV sales reached 3.3% share in December and of those 1.93% or 58% were Teslas.
  • Tesla sales are up 205% for 2019 and 517% in December driven by the Model 3.
SMMT – 2019 car sales by fuel in the UK – december above and full year below

Tesla in the UK in 2020

If Tesla can divert enough Model 3 production to the UK do they have an opportunity to take a sales chart position n the top 10 for 2020. There are some factors in favour.

  • The UK is reaching the point where many buyers have decided their next car will be an EV. Once a buyer decided this they wait for the right EV and stop considering combustion engine vehicle. Total combustion engine car sales are falling in every key global market including UK.
  • For 2019 full year 9 out of the top 10 selling brands (see table below) saw their sales fall. The only brand that increased was Skoda up 0.44%
  • The brands in the 11th to 20th position are faring better with only 4 fallers and 5 brands seeing growth of over 30% in December compared to a year earlier but none are seeing the growth momentum of Tesla since the Model 3
  • In April the tax on for benefit in kind on company cars drops to 0% for a year then 1% the year after. This means a that a company car driver could cut his tax bill from around £12,000 over 3yrs to around £2,000 if they choose an EV rather than a diesel C class, 3 Series or A4
  • The Model 3 has the ability and availability to do what it has done already in California, Norway and the Netherlands.. outsell all 3 German premium piston saloons combined

So is a top 10 sales position achievable?

It’s quite a stretch. Tesla Model 3 deliveries are famously lumpy – 1,000s of cars delivered one month and almost none the next. The entry point to the UK top 10 was around 83,000 cars in 2019. That equates to a 3.59% market share over the whole year or around 7,000 cars a month. For a brand with 14,600 deliveries in the UK in 2019 thats quite a stretch. Is Elon Musk up to the challenge? Top 10 will probably have to wait till the RHD Model Y arrives but never say never.

2019 sales charts in December with annual increase decrease for 2019 – By Brand

Brands with falling sales for the full year 2019 highlighted in bold.

% Market share Dec% change
% change
2019 YR
14Land Rover4,3162.9-0.12-1.75
19Tesla -Other Imports2,8731.93517.85205.4
33Other British3460.23110.985.49
34Alfa Romeo2020.14-21.71-17.98

Diesel sales are dominated by fleet sales and luxury brands

AFV – hybrid, plugin hybrid & electric

Hybrid, Plugin hybrid (PHEV) sales included in our monthly snapshot along with Electric vehicles that form a small but growing share of AFV sales so we cover them separately below.

The UK alternatively fuelled vehicle stats now include MHEV or “mild hybrid” models. Only electrified in a marketing sense these so called hybrids are standard petrol & diesel MHEVs can’t travel an inch on electric drive & offer a tiny CO2 / Economy benefit of around 4%. MHEV sales will grow for a while as they will become the final iteration of pure fossil fuel combustion engine technology. We will not include them in our AFV figures

David Nicholson

David Nicholson Is the founder of Rivergecko Ltd & MyUrbanCar which provide consultancy and advice for drivers and fleets to speed the transition from dirty fossil fuel transport to clean vehicles powered by renewable energy on land water and air.

The @MyUrbanCar twitter feed is a source of news & reviews of electric & plugin cars and vans in the UK.
The @rivergecko twitter feed & websites bring news and opinion on cleantech transport including cars, vans, buses, trucks, shipping, rail & aviation as well as autonomous vehicles & renewable energy, air pollution & motor industry news.

David Nicholson has worked as an underwriter at Lloyd's of London since the 1980's. His interest in technology goes back many years including interactive mapping, apps, green tech, boats, solar and cars.