The UK automotive sector has kicked off 2024 on a strong note. Both new car and light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations experienced significant growth in January, marking an impressive start to the year. Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, expressed optimism regarding the sector's performance.

In January, the UK witnessed an 8.2% increase in new car registrations compared to the same period last year, totalling 142,876 units. This marks the eighteenth consecutive month of growth for the automotive industry. While sales to private buyers saw a slight decline of -15.8%, fleet registrations soared by 29.9%, indicating robust demand in the commercial sector.

The shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) continued to gain momentum, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) experiencing a significant increase of 21.0% to 20,935 units. Plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) registrations also surged by 31.1% to 11,944 units. However, hybrid (HEV) sales saw a minor decrease of -1.2% to 18,744 units. These figures underscore the growing popularity of electric vehicles in the UK market.

Despite the positive trend in EV sales, traditional fuel types witnessed some changes. Diesel registrations fell by -10.1% to 9,348 units, while petrol registrations increased by 7.5% to 81,905 units. This shift reflects evolving consumer preferences and the industry's ongoing transition towards greener alternatives.

Sue Robinson highlighted the importance of government support in facilitating this transition, emphasizing the need for investment in charging infrastructure and financial incentives for EV buyers. NFDA's 2024 Spring Budget submission has underscored these priorities, aiming to address concerns such as range anxiety, lack of chargers, and cost barriers associated with EV adoption.

Moreover, the LCV segment also showed promising growth, with registrations increasing by 8.4% to 23,962 units in January. Medium-sized LCVs saw a significant uptick, with a staggering 60.9% increase in registrations. However, heavier vans experienced a slight decrease, attributed to supply constraints.

The rise of electric commercial vehicles is another notable trend, with EV vans capturing a market share of 4.9% in January, up from 4.5% in the previous year. However, achieving the government's 10% target for EV market share by 2024 under the ZEV mandate remains undetermined.

NFDA's 2024 outlook survey identified key barriers hindering EV adoption, including concerns over range, charging infrastructure, and costs. Addressing these concerns is crucial, particularly for small businesses operating outside major urban centres.

As the automotive industry navigates the transition towards zero emissions, collaboration between stakeholders, policymakers, and industry players will be vital in driving sustainable growth and innovation. With the sector's resilience and determination, 2024 holds promise as a pivotal year for the UK automotive landscape.