Tesla Model 3 becomes best-selling car in Britain

Shift to new technology boosts UK automotive sector as it struggles to recover from pandemic

Tesla’s Model 3 is soaring in popularity in the UK. AP
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Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3 was Britain’s best-selling car model in June, as drivers shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles ahead of a ban on petrol and diesel cars.

The pure-electric car comfortably led the top 10 sales chart, with 5,468 new models registered last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with the Volkswagen Golf in second place with 4,629 registrations, and the Ford Puma in third with 4,477.

British car sales rose 28 per cent in June, compared with the same month a year earlier, however the figure is considered artificial as some dealerships were still closed at that time last year ahead the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Monthly sales of new models are down 16 per cent compared with the previous decade average, with the first half of the year down 27 per cent on the 10-year average, while a semiconductor shortage is also hampering the sector’s recovery.

Mike Hawes, SMMT's chief executive, said the automotive sector is now battling against a "long Covid" of vehicle supply challenges as the global semiconductor shortfall cuts auto production across the globe.

“The semiconductor shortages arising from Covid-constrained output globally are affecting vehicle production, disrupting supply on certain models and restricting the automotive recovery”, he said.

Britain's automotive industry was hammered at the start of the pandemic when car showrooms were closed across the country.

However, the shift towards new technology has helped the sector survive, with electrification set to create 40,000 new jobs by 2030 and plug-in vehicles increasing their market share.

Combined battery electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid cars accounted for 17 per cent of new vehicles hitting the road in June, with BEVs accounting for more than one in 10 registrations.

New cars that only rely on petrol and diesel will be banned in Britain from 2030, while hybrids will be stopped from 2035.

Even though Tesla claimed the top spot in June, it does not register in the year-to-date top 10 best-selling cars, with Vauxhall's Corsa and the Ford Fiesta the most popular new cars on the road.

However, the number of Model 3s on UK roads accelerated past Nissan’s Leaf models during the first four months of 2021, according to car analyst Matthias Schmidt, who said there are now 39,900 Model 3s in the UK, compared with 38,900 Leafs, many of which are built at Nissan’s factory in Sunderland.

Globally, Tesla delivered 201,250 cars in the second quarter of this year, falling slightly short of analysts’ expectations, as it grappled with the semiconductor shortage.

“Congrats Tesla Team on over 201,250 cars built and delivered in Q2, despite many challenges!”, Tesla’s billionaire chief executive Elon Musk said on Twitter.

Last week, Nissan unveiled plans to build the UK’s first car battery “gigafactory” that will lead to a massive expansion of its plant in north-east England.

The Japanese car manufacturer said it planned to build a new all-electric car model next to its Sunderland factory.

The £1 billion ($1.38bn) battery plant, built in partnership with Chinese battery supplier Envision, will create 900 jobs at Nissan and 750 at Envision, the companies said.

The facility has been hailed as key to the UK's transition away from fossil fuel vehicles.

With local battery production beginning and a raft of new electrified models in showrooms, Mr Hawes said rebuilding the sector for the next decade is now well under way.

“With the end of domestic restrictions later this month looking more likely, business and consumer optimism should improve further, fuelling increased spending, especially as the industry looks towards September and advanced orders for the next plate change”, Mr Hawes said.

Updated: July 05, 2021, 1:37 PM