New car sales collapse during lockdown

UK new car registrations fell by 97.3% in April, according to the latest figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)

Just 4,321 new cars were registered in the month, compared with 156,743 in April 2019, with many of these delivered to key workers and front line public services and companies who are working during the crisis.

The decline was the steepest of modern times, and is in line with similar falls across Europe, with France -88.8% down and the Italian market falling -97.5% in April.

The SMMT says fleet orders represented the majority of the market, taking 71.5% market share, equivalent to 3,090 units, while private buyers registered just 871 cars – a year on year fall of –98.7%. 

Battery electric vehicles (EVs) saw a smaller percentage decrease of -9.7%, as some pre-ordered deliveries of the latest premium models were able to be fulfilled.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘With the UK’s showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising. These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

‘A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard. Safely restarting this most critical sector and revitalising what will, inevitably, be subdued demand will be key to unlocking manufacturing and accelerating the UK’s economic regeneration.’

Last month, Edmund King, AA president, said there could be ‘major changes’ to the way we travel post-lockdown.

AA analysis suggested that one-fifth of drivers will use their cars less when the coronavirus lockdown ends.

However, Mr King also predicted that people will shun public transport due to fears over contracting the virus – which could lead to increased car usage during the summer.

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