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Buyer incentives are vital for UK to reach EV target, says SMMT boss

Growing choice of electric vehicles won’t be enough to reach UK Government aims if the UK doesn’t get more incentives for private buyers and charger investment doesn’t accelerate.

That’s the view of Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, when he spoke to AM-online this week.

Hawes celebrated that the number of different battery electric vehicles has risen in five years from 20 to more than 110, but highlighted that the Government’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate, coming in on January 1, 2024, demands 22% of new cars sold – and 10% of new vans – to be pure electric at a time when consumers’ budgets are being squeezed by inflation effects.

Currently around 17% of new cars are EVs, after two years of strong increases, however growth has stalled in 2023, and used EV values have taken a significant hit. 

“It’s a major challenge to the industry. We can put products into the market but we can’t compell people to buy them,” said Hawes.mgmg5 closeupcharging uk w268 - Aligra.co.uk

While companies and business drivers have tax benefits from EV usage, the retail customer – which represents roughly half of the market – is being left out. Hawes added: “What’s the incentive for the private buyer?”

He wants to see increased support to support EV sales, whether that means fiscal benefits, money “on the bonnet” or other mechanisms, and the SMMT wants investment in charging infrastructure to happen more rapidly – with a Government mandate for an accelerated charging plan to increase drivers’ confidence.

“The danger is that the user experience might get worse before it gets better,” Hawes said.

Many franchised dealers have been keen to control their own investment in EV sales and aftersales training and charging facilities to not race ahead of demand.

Hawes said dealers must be the authority on EVs that the consumer needs. “The key thing is that the experience and insight and education is adequate. I think genuinely it is, but it’s going to be increasingly in demand as even more people need to have conversations, so they must make sure the training is up to date and they have the products.”

Tim Rose

As editor, Tim is responsible for the media content, planning and production of AM’s multiple channels (AM print and digital magazines, website, social media and contributing to our events planning). He interviews and writes about as many franchised dealer groups and UK divisions of motor manufacturers as possible, to explore the issues facing UK motor retail and understand what solutions dealers and suppliers are using to overcome these. 

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