Cool as ICE? Petrol and diesel dominates 2021 used car market

Published:  08 February, 2022

Used electrifed vehicle sales lept up in 2021, but the vast majority of second hand cars sold during the year still had an internal combustion engine, according to the full-year used car sales figures from the SMMT.

Used car sales increased by 11.5% in 2021, with 7,530,956 vehicles sold during the year. However, while 777,997 more cars were sold than in 2020, overall 2021’s saw 5.5% few used cars sold when compare with the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Across the year, demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) increased by119.2% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) increased by 75.6%. Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) sales were also up by 50.3%.Used petrol sales were up by 10.7% and diesel went up by 9.8%. In total, 7,277,291 were sold, and 96.6% of all used car sales were still either petrol or diesel models.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “It’s good to see the used car market return to growth, even if activity is still below where we were pre-pandemic. With the global shortage of semiconductors set to ease later this year, releasing the squeeze on new car supply, we expect more of the latest, cleanest and zero emission models to become available for second owners. The demand for personal mobility has undoubtedly increased during the pandemic, so it’s vital we have healthy new car sales to drive fleet renewal and the used car market if we are to improve air quality and address climate change.”

The shifting pattern of sales has led franchised dealers to lean even harder into their used operations as new car sales have struggled, as NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson observed: “Over the past months, franchised dealers have adapted the profile of their stock to include older vehicles and a variety of brands to offer a wider choice of second-hand cars for the benefit of their customers. Although electrified vehicles currently represent a small proportion of the used car market, this transition will further accelerate as more EVs reach the second-hand market.”

However, according to LKQ Euro Car Parts CEO Andy Hamilton, consumer impatience over new car supply is helping to fuel the used market, to the benefit of the independent aftermarket: “The semiconductor supply crunch, coupled with broader global shipping challenges, helped to make it a year of significant growth for used car sales. Demand was especially hot for cars under three years old as drivers grew tired of long waits for new vehicle orders. All of this bodes well for the aftermarket, as 2021’s comparatively fallow year for new car sales will nudge up the average age of the UK’s parc over the long-term.

“The data also tells a story of how the aftermarket will need to adapt in order to thrive over the coming years. Transactions for used hybrid and electric vehicles hit new highs last year, and the rising popularity of automatic transmissions, which now out-sell manual cars in the new vehicle market, is beginning to be reflected in the used space. Similarly, the growth of ADAS-equipped vehicles and the sophistication of other on-board systems is becoming ever more prevalent in older vehicles. “

He concluded: “We’re ramping up our range of training and support services to help the independent sector lean into these shifting trends. Staying ahead of the game now will help garages to quickly seize the new opportunities being created by the increasing number of times relatively newer vehicles are changing hands in the used car market.”

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