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UK new car registrations down a record 97% in April

The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the car industry hard, with new car sales falling to the lowest level since 1946

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UK new car registrations fell 97.3% in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 

This record low for the new car market came after the first full month of lockdown during which car showrooms were closed and only essential travel was allowed. 

Just 4,321 new cars were registered in the month, some 156,743 fewer than in April 2019, with many delivered to key workers and frontline public services and companies. This decline is in line with other European countries, with April’s new car sales in France down 88.8% and 97.5% in Italy.

Unsurprisingly, the sales decrease hit all fuel types. Numbers of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK were down 98.5% and 97.6% respectively, while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) declined by 95.1% and hybrids (HEVs) 99.3%. 

The percentage decrease for battery electric vehicles was smaller at 9.7% due to the fulfilment of premium model pre-orders.

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.”

This news comes after March 2020 saw a decrease of 44.4%, amounting to 203,370 fewer new cars sold than in the same month in 2019. Traditionally, March and September are the months with the highest numbers of new car registrations due to the bi-annual plate change system.

In its latest forecast, the SMMT expects a total of 1.68 million new car registrations this year, the lowest number since 1992.

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