UK BEV volume up year-on-year despite Tesla restocking mid-quarter

The UK car market saw plug-in electric vehicles take a 21.5% share in October, with volumes growing year-on-year. Despite volume gain, YoY plug-in to share saw a slight decline (by 23.1%), against stronger year-on-year gains in overall automotive volume, up 26% to 134,344 units (from a record high baseline). October market volume was still at the lowest seasonal level since 2010. BMW’s all-electric vehicles led the category in October, with Tesla in shipping mode.

October’s combined plug-in share of 21.5% included 14.8% fully electric vehicles (BEVs) and 6.6% plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). These compare to shares of 15.2% and 7.9% a year ago.

In terms of volume, BEVs were up 23.4% year-on-year, which isn’t quite enough to keep up with the broader market recovery. ORVs increased their volume by a modest 6%.

The strongest volume growth was in the Plug-Free HEV and Mild Hybrid segments, with HEVs up nearly 82% year-on-year (to 15,712 units). Mild hybrid gasolines gained 60% in volume over one year to 20,993 units. Their combined share rose from 23.5% to 31.4% year-on-year.

Industry body SMMT says these hybrid gains are mainly due to “supply being prioritized for a series of popular new models”. In other words, the new 2023 model year vehicles that automakers usually start rolling out in October are increasingly embracing the handy fruit of the efficiency gains that come with entry-level electrification. (i.e. HEVs and mild hybrids).

Although this is an emissions improvement over combustion-only powertrains at the status quo, it is only a quick and cheap extension of ICE IP and production capacity inherited, on the way to full electrification.

As battery production capacity increases, all of these plug-less hybrids will go the way of the Dodo. Until then, plug-less hybrids will continue to replace sales of older combustion-only powertrains. The combined share of the latter fell year-on-year from 48.4% to 47.2%.

Ranking of British brands BEV

We’ve got a decent measure of the auto brands that scooped the biggest share of UK BEV sales in October, with BMW leading the pack. Tesla (still the UK’s longer-term BEV leader) was in expedition mode in October, giving BMW, Volkswagen and MG their turn in the spotlight.

BMW has actually had record performances over the past two months, but September’s was overshadowed by Tesla’s outsized performance. Now that Tesla is restocking, BWM stands out.

Other notable trends were the return of Polestar and Volvo to volume shipping, both registering nearly 3 times their recent average monthly volume (below normal). Vauxhall (Opel) has also increased its volume in the UK recently.

New faces showed up in October – Great Wall and Ora. Both were only at shelf volumes, and we’ll be following the progress of these newcomers over the coming months.

Let’s smooth the roller coaster month by month by looking at the rankings for the last 3 months:

Here Tesla is still dominant, having exactly the same BEV market share in the UK as a year ago, although the Model Y has now largely taken over from the Model 3.

Compared to the May-July period, when Tesla’s lead was thinner (“only” 11.4% BEV share), it has now returned to its more typical dominance.

Here are the main climbers compared to 3 months ago:

  • BMW jumps from 5th to 2nd place
  • MG goes from 6th to 4th
  • Mercedes jumps from 9th to 5th place
  • Nissan drops from 11th to 7th place
  • Polestar drops from 16th to 12th place
  • Mini up from 18 to 13
  • Volvo goes from 23 to 16

These brands lost rank over the period:

  • Kia fell from 2nd to 9th place
  • Hyundai drops from 3rd to 6th place
  • Vauxhall (Opel) drops from 8th to 11th place
  • Fiat drops from 12th to 21st place
  • Renault falls from 13th to 17th place
  • Jaguar fell from 14th to 18th place

Finally, let’s take a look at the performance of the manufacturing group over the last 3 months:

Tesla is back on top, simply replacing the Volkswagen Group. This comes after Tesla fell behind in the May-July (4th) period due to production pauses in Shanghai.

BMW Group did well to move up from 5th to 3rd place, replacing both Stellantis and Hyundai Motor Group. The latter indeed went from 3rd to 5th, swapping ranks with Stellantis as they both slipped.

Outside the top 5, Renault-Nissan (going back far with 7.0%) remains 6th. Just behind, Mercedes ranks 7th (with 6.7%), exchanging places with SAIC (6.5%). Geely was still 9th, but its BEV market share more than doubled from 2.7% to 5.6%.


According to the Bank of England, the UK is currently facing the longest recession “since records began” around 100 years ago. They anticipate 8 consecutive quarters of economic decline.

Against this backdrop, it is hard to see why the UK automotive industry association, the SMMT, now predicts that “the overall market recovery is expected to continue through 2023, with an outlook of 1.808 million units” . [up 15.5% YoY] and plug-ins accounting for 26.7% of registrations next year.

I agree that the share of plugins will continue to grow in the context of road fuel price volatility and the savings in running costs that plugins provide. But I don’t see where the 15.5% market growth will come from in an otherwise declining economy!

If you have any thoughts on how the UK car market might fare over the next few years, please jump into the comments section below to share your thoughts.

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