U.K. Vehicle Ownership Reaches Record Levels

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Despite a sales slump even before the coronavirus struck, U.K. vehicle ownership rises to its highest-ever figure.

New data shows 40.4 million cars, light-commercial vehicles and trucks are registered for use on British roads. Encouragingly for the economy, LCV ownership has risen 2.7% to 4.5 million vehicles and heavy-duty truck use is at its highest in 30 years. Many of these vehicles are helping provide transport for essential workers, deliveries and emergency services.

Some 25,000 ambulance and fire service vehicles, together with more than 20,000 supermarket delivery trucks are keeping the nation safe, supermarket shelves stocked, and the flow of food, medicine and care to vulnerable people going during the coronavirus crisis.

Research for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows overall vehicle ownership increased 1% year-on-year at a time when new-vehicle sales have been curtailed apparently by concerns over the economic impact of Brexit.

The data also reveals the U.K.’s fleet now includes more than 750,000 low-, ultra-low- and zero- emission cars. The number of these cars grew 26% last year, with 11,832 hybrids, 144,335 plug-in hybrids and 92,913 battery-electric vehicles now in use, although this segment still makes up just 2.2% of the nationwide total. Meanwhile the number of diesel cars in use fell a marginal 0.9% to 13,723,299, accounting for 39% of the total, while gasoline cars grew 1.2% to 20,657,838.

SMMT analysis suggests that with more drivers opting for the latest low-emission-vehicle technology, average carbon-dioxide emissions continue to fall across the board, down 19.2% since 2008, to the lowest on record.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, says: “As the U.K. continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, keeping food, medical supplies and the people serving on the front line moving has never been so important – and these figures show the essential role Britain’s vehicle fleet plays for society. They also provide evidence that industry’s ongoing investment into ever cleaner, safer and more reliable vehicle technology is paying off, even as demand for mobility grows.”UKOwnership2.jpg

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