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UK March 2021: Fleet, green cars pull market up 11.5% but sales down -38% on two years ago

The Vauxhall Corsa is the best-selling vehicle in the UK in March and YTD.

The UK new car market posts its first year-on-year gain since last August at +11.5% to 283.964 units for the all-important month of March which coincides with new license plates. However the comparison base in March 2020 was particularly low as it corresponds to the start of the Covid-19 lockdown and sales were down -44.4% year-on-year. March 2021 UK sales stand at -36.9% on the March average of the past decade (450.189) and are down -38% on March 2019 (458.054). Year-to-date volumes are down -12% to 425.525. This month the market is pulled up by fleet sales up 28.7% to 151.360 and 53.3% share vs. 46.2% a year ago while private sales (-4.1%) remain in negative at 126.850 and 44.7% share vs. 51.9% in March 2020. Business sales are also healthy at +18.6% to 5.754. The year-to-date picture is similar with private sales off -18.3% to 186.176 and 43.8% share vs. 47.1% over the same period in 2020, fleets down just -5.9% to 231.677 and 54.4% share vs. 50.9% and business sales off -17.3% to 7.672.

Source: SMMT

Looking at fuel type, petrol drops -10% to 137.557 and 48.4% share vs. 60% a year ago, mild hybrid (MHEV) is up 135% to 54.745 and 19.3% share vs. 9.1% in March 2020, diesel is off -31.4% to 30.730 and 10.8% share vs. 17.6%, BEV shoots up 88.2% to 22.003 and 7.7% share vs. 4.6%, HEV is up 42% to 21.500 and 7.6% share vs. 6% and PHEV soars 152.2% to 17.330 and 6.1% share vs. 2.7% a year ago. Year-to-date, petrol is down -28.4% to 209.212 and 49.2% share vs. 60.4% over the same period in 2020, MHEV is up 95.2% to 77.743 and 18.3% share vs. 8.2%, diesel implodes -46.9% to 48.574 and 11.4% share vs. 18.9%. BEV rises 74.1% to 31.779 and 7.5% share vs. 3.8%, HEV edges up 11.6% to 31.604 and 7.4% share vs. 5.9% and PHEV is up 93.6% to 26.613 and 6.3% share vs. 2.8%.

Despite losing share year-on-year, Volkswagen (+3.3%) is the best-selling carmaker in the UK for only the second time in the past 12 months after December 2020 and the 9th time overall after June 2018, July 2018August 2018November 2018August 2019, February 2020 and March 2020. Volkswagen also historically grabs the YTD pole position, 147 sales above Ford (+17.1%). Mercedes (+25.5%) scores the largest gain in the Top 6, with BMW (+19.8%) and Audi (+16.3%) also frankly outpacing the market just as Toyota (+10.1%) slightly underperforms. Vauxhall (+27.2%) secures the biggest uptick in the Top 10 but drops to #7 for the second time in the past 3 months. Land Rover (+21.8%) and Nissan (+13.2%) are also solid whereas Kia (-13.4%) is the only Top 10 brand in negative. Just outside the Top 10 lurk some fantastic gains by Peugeot (+55%), Volvo (+45.2%) and Hyundai (+24.5%) while further down Citroen (+52.6%), MG (+44.6%) and Tesla (+35.5%) impress.

In the models ranking, the Vauxhall Corsa (+36.2%) reclaims the top spot for the 6th time in the past 10 months. It cements its YTD leadership in an increasingly fragmented market: the Corsa holds just 2.8% share in March and 2.9% year-to-date. Were the Corsa to keep the lead until the end of the year, it would be the first time a Vauxhall nameplate tops the UK annual charts since at least 1965. The Ford Fiesta (+10.8%) almost matches the market and is down to #2 above the Mercedes A-Class (+31%) and Tesla Model 3 (+39.6%) both frankly up year-on-year. The BMW 3 Series (+34.8%) advances to #6, its first UK Top 10 finish since January 2020 and highest ranking since December 2019 (#5). Leader a year ago, the VW Golf (-26.9%) is in freefall at #7 both for the month and YTD (-45.9%). The Toyota Yaris, Ford Puma and Mini return to the UK Top 10 in March.

Previous month: UK February 2021: Sales plunge -35.5% to weakest February since 1959, Volvo, Kia, MG resist

One year ago: UK March 2020: VW and Golf repeat at #1 in market down -44.4%

Full March 2021 Top 40 brands and Top 10 models below.

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