New car registrations in the United Kingdom fell to 1.6 million last year, the lowest level since 1992, as a global chip shortage hammered sales in the first six months.
The supply constraints saw many manufacturers prioritize the delivery of battery electric vehicles, which enjoyed record sales and overtook diesel cars for the first time in the UK market. Tesla’s (TSLA)Model Y was the third-best seller overall, behind the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Corsa.
Vehicle registrations in 2022 were 2% below the previous year and around 700,000 units below pre-pandemic levels, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which publishes the data, said Thursday.
Sales picked up in the last five months of the year, allowing the country to reclaim the position of Europe’s second-largest new car market by volume, behind only Germany.
That trend could continue this year, despite fears of a long recession, provided more charging stations are built for electric vehicles.
“The automotive market remains adrift of its pre-pandemic performance but could well buck wider economic trends by delivering significant growth in 2023,” SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.
“To secure that growth — which is increasingly zero emission growth — government must help all drivers go electric and compel others to invest more rapidly in nationwide charging infrastructure,” Hawes added.
The United Kingdom is not alone in suffering from weak vehicle sales as parts shortages, primarily computer chips, hamper production. New car sales in the United States are expected to fall to fewer than 14 million when the industry reports final figures for 2022 later this week — the lowest in more than a decade.
By comparison, new vehicle registrations in Germany reached 2.65 million in 2022, a slight increase on the previous year, the country’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) said Wednesday.
According to the SMMT, electric vehicles are now the second-most popular choice for new buyers after gasoline-powered cars. Diesel’s UK market share shrank by 40% on the previous year.
But SMMT said that a lack of charging infrastructure and UK government plans to introduce road taxes on electric vehicles from 2025 were a barrier to further growth.
Charging points are currently being installed at a rate of just 23 per day, according to SMMT, well below the 100 per day needed to meet the government’s minimum threshold of 300,000 outlets by 2030.
“Accelerated investment in charging infrastructure is needed if consumers are to be confident they can make the switch and brands are to have a chance of securing sufficient supply to support UK market growth and not lose out to other markets which are investing more rapidly,” it said.
In its most recent outlook, published in October, SMMT forecasts 1.8 million new car registrations in 2023, worth about £8.4 billion ($10 billion).
— Chris Isidore contributed to this report.