Tesla rises to second in UK car sales

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The surge in the take-up of electric vehicles has made the £42,500 Tesla Model 3 Britain’s executive company car of choice and it became the UK’s second best-selling new car in 2021.

Although the market has been distorted by the pandemic-related global shortage in microchips, Tesla’s popularity is rendered more remarkable by the disappearance from the top ten of the £16,000 Ford Fiesta, the UK’s most-in-demand car for the past two decades.

Data released today showed that in 2021, 1.65 million new cars were registered, marginally ahead of the 1.63 million sold in 2020, the worst year since the 1992 recession. The latest figure is 30 per cent down on the 2.3 million the trade would normally expect but the take up of electrified vehicles, which can run in some form in zero-emission mode, accounted for one in four of all new registrations.

In December, Tesla delivered 9,290 cars, 36 per cent of all electric vehicles registered. For the year it delivered nearly 36,000 vehicles, about 40 per cent more than in 2020. Its Model 3 was behind only the £15,485 Vauxhall Corsa, the popular hatchback, which now comes in a £30,000 plug-in variant, something the Fiesta does not offer.

Of new car sales in 2021, about 190,000 were battery-powered, 11.7 per cent of the market. A further 7 per cent were plug-in hybrids, with a fuelled engine back-up. Another 8.9 per cent were self-charging hybrids, that can run in electric motor mode for a few miles.

While new registrations generally are split 50:50 between private buyers and fleets, it is believed the vast majority of Tesla Model 3s are company cars.

There are generous incentives for companies running zero-emission cars: a 100 per cent tax deduction on the cost of the car in the first year and exemption from vehicle excise duty and low emission charging zones. For the driver, the benefit-in-kind company car tax is just 1 per cent compared to at least 25 per cent for conventional vehicles.

The shortage of microchips has led manufacturers to cut production, feeding into new car inflation of 15 per cent a year. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said there is strong unfulfilled consumer demand and, despite higher prices, sales are expected to increase to 1.96 million in 2022.

Pure-electric sales are expected to overtake diesel, which dwindled to just 14 per cent of the market last year,

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the trade body, said the number of variants is due to grow by a third to more than 180. But he said the electric car boom should not be taken for granted as sales are outstripping the provision of public charging: in 2020 there was one public charger for every 11 plug-in cars; in 2021 that has fallen to one for every 16.

“Electric car take up will continue but 2022 will be about supply — the UK has to compete to attract product allocation by manufacturers — and assuring customers that they can live with electric cars in the provision, cost and reliability of public charging which we know is not as good as other countries.”

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