UK new car sales rise in January, full-year sales to top last year - SMMT

Cars queue up The Mall during traffic choas and tube strikes in London
Traffic queues along The Mall in central London June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

Feb 6 (Reuters) - New car registrations in the United Kingdom rose for the sixth straight month, recording a 14.7% annual rise in January due to robust sales of electric vehicles and large fleets, and full-year sales are expected to top last year's, an industry body said on Monday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said car registrations for the month amounted to 131,994 units, marking the UK car industry's best start to a year since January 2020.

It added that it expects sales this year to rise more than 11% to 1.79 million new cars and forecast registrations to touch 1.96 million units in 2024.

Registrations for both years, however, are expected to be considerably below the pre-pandemic sales of 2.31 million units in 2019, due to strained supply chains and a cost-of-living crisis that has seen consumers limit big-ticket purchases.

The UK's auto market has struggled with shortages of parts over the last two years, in particular semiconductor chips, while buyers battle inflationary pressures that worsened last year.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) comprised 14.4% of new car registrations.

However, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) made up only 13.1% of new registrations in January, compared with an annual share of 16.6% in 2022. BEV registrations jumped 19.8% to 17,294 units.

The SMMT expects plug-in vehicles to comprise more than a fourth of new registrations this year, 32% higher than the previous year, but said the roll out of infrastructure needed to charge them is failing to keep pace.

The industry body said the infrastructure roll-out targets and regulating service standards needed to be mandated to give drivers certainty they could always find a working, available charger.

"Infrastructure must be built ahead of demand else poor provision risks delaying the electric transition," SMMT said.

Registrations of large fleets surged nearly 37% to 69,540 units during the month, the industry body said, reflecting some easing of supply issues.

Reporting by Muhammed Husain in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K

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