Last year was difficult for every manufacturer, but Tesla ended it on a high, with its Model 3 being the UK’s best-selling car in December, according to the SMMT.

While overall new car registrations fell by 29.4% year on year across 2020, December was kinder to manufacturers, with a comparatively mild 10.9% drop in sales.

A total of 1,631,064 new cars were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with 2,311,140 in 2019. In December, 132,682 cars were registered, down from 148,997 in December 2019.

Just shy of 6000 examples of Tesla’s entry-level EV were registered in December, making it the best-selling car of the month. Its 5798 registrations gave it an advantage of more than 1000 over the next most popular car, the new Volkswagen Golf (4470) and more than 2000 over the Ford Fiesta (3367).

It’s not far off double the number of new ID 3 electric cars that Volkswagen registered, too.

Tesla’s achievement is notable because this is only the second time that the brand has topped the SMMT’s table. The Model 3 was also the UK’s best-selling car in April, following a boom in online orders before the car industry locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reasons for Tesla’s success in December are more opaque but are likely due to the timing of its latest batch of deliveries, which arrived in November. This was too late for the Model 3 to keep its title of Europe’s best-selling electric car, which it lost to the ID 3 in October, but will have considerably bolstered its performance in the UK ratings.

As well as the Model 3, demand for all EVs surged in 2020. Hybrids and electric cars enjoyed their best year yet, together accounting for more than one in 10 registrations, up from around one in 30 in 2019.

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Demand for EVs grew by 185.9% in 2020, with 108,205 such cars finding buyers. Plug-in hybrids also gained popularity, with registrations rising 91.2% to 66,877.

A combination of increased public awareness of the environmental benefits of EVs and stiff new regulations, such as the UK government’s planned 2030 ban on new ICE vehicle sales, are among the factors behind this rise.

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