Surpassing 2004’s previous first-quarter best, the 916,000 new registrations also represent a 5% increase on the corresponding period last year.
It’s the first time the new vehicles tally has exceeded the 900,000 mark in 12 years. The total includes more than 11,750 new ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) – a figure that brings the overall proportion of ULEVs among registered vehicles to 1.0%, up from 0.8% in 2015.
The rise in popularity of plug-in car and van grants is thought to be responsible for the increased ULEV registrations.
Such is the success of the grant scheme, it’s reported the government may have to consider revising its spend on it next year. Started in 2011 as early encouragement for drivers interested in buying electric or hybrid vehicles, plug-in grants allow motorists to claim money back on the purchase price of a qualifying new car.
The amount made redeemable has already been reduced this year – moving from £5,000 to a tier system graded against the vehicle’s emission output in March. Cars that can travel at least 70 miles on electric power and produce under 50g/km of CO2 are now eligible for a grant of up to £4,500 (Category One).
Those which can last for between 10 and 69 miles on electric power alone and also produce less than the 50g/km can claim up to £2,500 back in Category Two, while the same applies to cars that emit between 50 and 75g/km of CO2 and can travel at least 20 miles electrically (Category Three).
The SMMT reports that over 11,000 applications for plug-in grants were received this February alone – suggesting a tightening of the qualification rules could be a distinct possibility. The government has committed to the grant until at least 2018, but will re-assess the terms next year as it looks to ensure its £400 million pot is used in the most effective way.
Across the ULEV market, the Mitsubishi Outlander proved popular with 3,881 registered, while the Nissan Leaf accounted for 1,519 and the Mercedes C350, 1,282.
Official data from the Department for Transport indicates that, of all new registrations between January and March, 83% were cars – the rest being made up of vans (11%) and HGVs, motorcycles, buses, coaches and other vehicles (6%).
Overall the most common manufacturer on the UK’s roads remains Ford, with Volkswagen and Vauxhall making up the top three most popular.