2021 was a roller coaster year for new car registrations with lockdowns affecting demand at the start and the global shipping crisis and semiconductor shortage impacting supply towards the end of the year, resulting in the overall market being down from pre-pandemic levels.

The latest SMMT’s new passenger car registration figures showed 2021’s new car registrations were 1.0% above 2020’s sales but remained below pre-pandemic levels by 28.7%; a total of 1.65 million units were registered.

Encouraging signs came from the electric vehicle market: 190,727 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in 2021, alongside 114,554 plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), accounting for 18.5% of new car registrations in 2021. In December, the market was -18.2% lower than the same month in 2020, but sales of BEVs grew by 26.4%.

Positively, demand from private buyers was up 19.9% in December compared to the same time in 2020, and in 2021 it was 7.4% higher than in the previous year.

Despite the recent challenges, there is cause for optimism. A poll conducted by NFDA on Wednesday 5 December revealed that 78.6% of franchised vehicle dealers are optimistic about the level of demand in the year ahead as consumer confidence improves while we move through the pandemic and the electrification of the UK car parc continues apace.

Sue Robinson added: “It is encouraging that sales of electric vehicles experienced significant growth in 2021, driven by the growing range of models available and retailers’ efforts to help their customers make informed choices. However, it is important that the transition to zero emissions continues to be supported by investments in the charging infrastructure and financial incentives for EV buyers. As a result, the recent cut to the plug-in grant was disappointing”.

“Throughout 2022, we are confident retailers will continue to show their resilience and ability to meet buyers’ demand with growing footfall levels in showrooms and an ever-improving online offering from dealers”.