UK car sales fall by 44 per cent in wake of coronavirus pandemic

As manufacturing stalls across the EU, 44 per cent fewer sales are recorded compared to March 2019

New car registrations in March took a big tumble according to new data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), reflecting the inevitable conditions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 254,684 new cars were sold last month, a drop of 203,370 compared to March 2019, representing a 44.4 per cent drop as the industry braces for worse numbers to come due to a drop in demand and the sustained period of factory closures that have stalled supply.

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In the short term, news is set to only get worse, as Britain’s lockdown enforcement only came into effect mid-way through the month, meaning dealerships were broadly open to the public for a portion of the March sales period. Sales in April are expected to all but halt completely, aside from online sales by companies that have initiated new operating regulations to adhere to government lockdown rules.

Using Italy, France and Spain as a guide, sales have broadly been hit by up to 85 per cent – a figure expected to be mirrored here in the UK.

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Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: ‘With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise. Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the bi-annual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month.

‘We should not, however, draw long-term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt.

‘How long the market remains stalled is uncertain, but it will reopen and the products will be there. In the meantime, we will continue to work with government to do all we can to ensure the thousands of people employed in this sector are ready for work and Britain gets back on the move.’

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