UK fleets will continue to have a vital role in driving EV adoption in the year ahead, helping to nurture the fuel type’s emerging used market.
This is according to Lorna McAtear, the Deputy Chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals, a key contributor to Cox Automotive’s Insight Report. She said the sector had faced numerous challenges in 2023, most notably the government’s deadline change on the sale of new ICE vehicles to 2035. That shift has hampered the objectives of many fleets, according to Lorna, as they are invariably focused on long-term planning and require ‘consistency’.
Cox Automotive’s Insight Director Philip Nothard said: “Fleets have a crucial role in adoption because, as 2023 statistics show, they accounted for approximately 64% of all new battery electric vehicles bought and more than half of all new registrations generally.
“With EVs set to make up a growing proportion of the overall new car parc, thanks to the ZEV mandate, a rapidly changing OEM product mix and other factors, buyers need to be found for these new EVs. Without a sudden and dramatic turnaround in consumer appetite, fleets will continue to shoulder that burden.
“Our forecasts predict a relatively flat 2024 for new registrations which further underlines the crucial role fleets have in shaping the demand for EVs and their eventual supply to the used market.”
Lorna, as Head of Fleet at National Grid, is responsible for managing one of the largest and most diverse fleets in the UK.
She said: “We know we’re going to be the driving force this year and why do we know that? Because the manufacturers have come back to us offering discounts. Fleets will continue to be the backbone of this change.
“Fleets face many challenges, especially with the hangover of last year when there was so much negative press. The government rolled back the deadline, so there’s a retail perception challenge and all those that were on the cusp of adoption have kind of said ‘If it’s not important to the government, it’s not important to me’.
“It’s fleets that are going to drive this forward. It’s fleets that feed a lot of those vehicles into the second-hand market. It’s fleets that put drivers into those vehicles that would otherwise never have got into them.”
Regarding the potential impact of the agency sales model on fleets, Lorna said: “I always have to go away and check what people mean when they talk about agency model, as it’s what I’ve always used. The bigger the fleet, the more likely you’ll have to deal directly with the manufacturer. I don’t think I’ll see any difference.”
She thinks smaller fleets, more used to dealing with dealerships, are going to struggle more with the change, however. A pure agency model will mean a less personable arrangement, as they may, in many cases, have to negotiate with large OEMs instead.
She adds that the concerns about EV infrastructure are understandable but insists more time is needed to ease those worries as the transition continues. And with a General Election planned in 2024, Lorna believes the best thing a government can do for fleets is to avoid a change of heart.
“All the fleet sector has ever asked for is consistency,” she said. “Because, once you’ve got some of those targets, you’ve got some deadlines and you know where the money is to meet them.
“I also think simpler terminology where EVs are concerned is long overdue. So many in the EV world overcomplicate the language.”
She added that new entrants to the EV market will have a marked impact on uptake as their fresh perspective will see them go to great lengths to win customers compared to established OEMs.
Philip Nothard said: “We believe 2024 will see a collective will for stability across the automotive industry. Industry players are facing many economic and political challenges, fleets included. Cox Automotive will continue to help fleet operators through the EV transition with solutions, data and expertise.”
Listen to the latest Insight Report podcast with Philip and Lorna, Fleets Challenges and Opportunities in 2024 here. Cox Automotive’s forecasts for 2024 and beyond are also published as a part of its Insight Report, which includes a deep dive into key issues currently facing dealers, OEMs and fleets.