Electric car sales UK: Tesla Model 3 tops the charts in September 2021

The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car in the UK overall during September 2021, as the chip shortage continues to hit new vehicle supplies

Tesla Model 3

September 2021 saw a 49.4% increase in pure-electric car sales in the UK compared to the same month in 2020, and the electric Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car in the country overall. Overall, though, passenger-car sales were 34.4% down on September 2020, as numbers continue to be hit by difficulties in supplying new cars due to the industry-wide shortage of semiconductor chips.

A total of 215,312 new cars were registered in the UK in September 2021. Of those, 32,721 (15.2% of the total) were pure-electric cars, 13,884 (11.5%) were plug-in hybrids, and 24,961 (nearly 12%) were full hybrids. Pure-petrol cars accounted for just under 44% of the month’s total, while mild-hybrid petrols made up 12.7% of total registrations for the month. Diesels and mild-hybrid diesels accounted for the remainder of sales, at 5.0% and 5.3% of the total respectively.

As noted above, the Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car overall in the UK during September 2021. Of the rest of the top 10, none were an exclusively electric model, however Vauxhall Corsa (second), BMW 3 Series (third), Toyota Yaris (fourth), Kia Niro (ninth) and Volkswagen Golf (10th) all offer either electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid variants in their range.

UK electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid car registrations in 2020

UK new-car registrations dropped to their lowest level since 1992 in 2020. Overall sales figures showed a 29.4% decrease year-on-year, but the good news was that electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up a larger proportion of cars sold than ever before. Pure-electric sales went up by 185.9% versus 2019, while plug-in hybrid sales went up 91.2%. The total share of the new-car market taken by pure-electric cars in 2020 was 6.6%, with 108,205 electric cars sold; plug-in hybrids had a 4.1% market share, with 66,877 new registrations.

A number of electric models found their way into the list of top sellers in December 2020. The Tesla Model 3 sold strongly through lockdown and was the best-selling car in December, followed by the Volkswagen ID.3 in fourth place. The Vauxhall Corsa (now available in pure-electric Corsa-e guise) sold strongly all year and came second overall for 2020 – although the bulk of these will have been petrol-powered.

Other models in the overall top 10 for 2020 also available with electric or hybrid powertrains included the Mercedes A-Class (fifth) and Volvo XC40 (10th). The Volkswagen Golf (third) is now available as a plug-in hybrid GTE model. Elsewhere, pure-hybrid cars saw a rise in sales despite a general move towards plug-in variants by most manufacturers. Total sales were 100,117, versus 98,237 in 2019 – a 12.1% increase. This seems a modest increase when compared to the plug-in hybrid figure, however.

For context, diesel-car registrations fell by a staggering 55% year-on-year in 2020, while petrol-car registrations dropped by 39%. However, these figures don't take into account the industry's move to mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology: MHEV diesels saw a 79.6% increase in registrations, while petrol mild-hybrid variants saw a 184.1% increase.

Despite some brief signs that the UK car market was beginning to recover from coronavirus-enforced shutdowns, car registration numbers overall were down 29.4% by the end of 2020 – that's 680,076 fewer cars than 2019.

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