Autos Over There

“Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.”

While I ordinarily just pay attention to the vehicle sales that occur in the United States market given my somewhat parochial interests, I happened to be looking at the most recently reported vehicle sales in the United Kingdom. The figures, as reported by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) were for the month of April.

While the sales, 167,911 units, were in a positive direction, there were all manner of things affecting that number, ranging from the calendar (Easter threw in additional sales days) to the weather (it had been bad in March so people probably waited to get a new vehicle) to tax policy (VED, or “vehicle excise duty”—don’t ask).

Related Stories

But what was of most interest came in the powertrain categories.

Gasoline (a.k.a., petrol) powered vehicles had a solid increase up 38.5 percent. However, diesels didn’t fare in the least bit well, with a decline of 24.9 percent. Realize that in the U.K., as in other parts of Europe (is a post-Brexit U.K. still to be considered Europe?), diesel had been pretty much a fuel of choice in a way that it has never been in the U.S. While the diesel fiasco primarily promulgated by the Volkswagen Group has pretty much put an end to diesel for most light-duty applications in the U.S. (yes, we will see more applications in things like pickups and large SUVs, but as for sedans, it is essentially a done deal, with minor exceptions), it seems that that, and possibly tax policies, are having a similar effect elsewhere, such as in the U.K.

It is worth noting that in the U.K. it’s not like Volkswagen is a tarnished brand. Both for the month of April and for the first four months of 2018 the Volkswagen Golf has been the second best-selling car in the U.K., behind the Ford Fiesta. (It is worth noting that the Ford Motor Company Ltd. Was established in the U.K. in 1909 so that it is pretty much an indigenous company over there, not an outpost of a U.S.-based company. All of which is to say that there might be a bit of rooting for the home team as regards the Fiesta sales.)

But this is the number that really piques my interest: 49.3 percent.

That’s the growth of electrified vehicles—hybrids and battery electrics.

Now while that is a huge gain by most measures, it is not a huge gain by any measure because what the SMMT describes as “alternatively fueled vehicles” account for just 5.6 percent of the overall market.

This could simply be a one-off, a month wherein Spring was aborning and people were thinking “green” (not likely, I know).

What’s more, Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, said, “While the continuing growth in demand for plug-in and hybrid cars is positive news, the market share of these vehicles remains low and will do little to offset damaging declines elsewhere.”

Like diesel cars.

Hawes continued, “Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.”

By which he probably means some sort of tax break to make more inclined to buy alternatively fueled vehicles.

But here’s something to consider. According to “Global EV Outlook 2017,” a report produced by the International Energy Agency, in 2008, the market share for battery electric and hybrid vehicles in the U.K. was 0.01 percent.