THE UK new car market grew 14.7 per cent in January to reach 131,994 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
It was the best start to the year since January 2020's pre-Covid 149,279 units and marks the sixth successive month of expansion.
Electrified vehicles notably drove the increase, as manufacturers continue to bring ever more choice to the market despite ongoing strains on the supply chains.
Hybrid electric vehicles comprised 14.4 per cent of new car registrations, increasing volumes by 40.6 per cent.
Meanwhile, battery electric vehicle registrations rose 19.8 per cent to reach 17,294 units, or 13.1 per cent of new registrations - slightly below the average recorded for 2022.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles recorded a 0.7 per cent rise, although their share fell to 6.9 per cent of new cars reaching the road.
As a result, one in five new cars registered in the month came with a plug.
It was also a strong month for large fleet registrations, which increased by 36.8 per cent to 69,540 units, while registrations by private buyers fell by 4.3 per cent to 59,639 units - reflecting some easing of supply and evidence of how shortages last year distorted market performance.
Registrations by businesses, the smallest segment at 2,815 units, rose by 45.6 per cent.
Plug-ins are anticipated to comprise of more than one in four new registrations this year, representing growth of 32.1 per cent or approximately 487,140 units, and almost a third of the market in 2024 at 607,150 units.
However, the rollout of infrastructure needed to charge them is failing to keep pace. During the last quarter of 2022, the ratio of new chargepoint installations to new plug-in carregistrations dropped toone for every 62 - a significant fall compared with the same quarter last year, when the ratio was 1:42.
As a result, in 2022, one standard public charger was installed for every 53 new plug-in cars registered, the weakest ratio since 2020.
Mandating rollout targets for infrastructure and regulating service standards would give drivers certainty they can always find aworking, available charge, said the SMMT.
The organisation added that the upcoming Budget is an opportunity to implement measures that support the transition.
Reducing VAT on public chargepoint use from 20 per cent to five per cent in line with home charging would ensure more affordable access for all and underpin a fair net zero transition.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive,said: "The automotive industry is already delivering growth that bucks the national trend and is poised, with the right framework, to accelerate the decarbonisation of the UK economy.
"The industry and market are in transition, but fragile due to a challenging economic outlook, rising living costs and consumer anxiety over new technology. We look to a Budget that will reaffirm the commitment to net zero and provide measures that drive green growth for the sector and the nation."
The strong start to the year is mirrored in the latest market outlook, which anticipates 1.79 million new car registrations in 2023, an 11.1 per cent increase on the past year but still well below 2019 levels.
A further 9.3 per cent increase is expected next year, with 1.96 million new cars expected to join the road in 2024.
The best selling new car in January was the MG HS with 3,481 registrations, followed by the Volkswagen T-Roc at 3,256 and the Nissan Qashqai at 3,121.
Kia, Vauxhall, Ford and Hyundai also had models in the top ten of sales in January.