United Kingdom auto sector slashes 2020 sales forecast by 23% due to coronavirus

  • United Kingdom auto sector slashes 2020 sales forecast by 23% due to coronavirus

United Kingdom auto sector slashes 2020 sales forecast by 23% due to coronavirus

March is traditionally seen as an important month for new auto sales as it's one of two months in the year when a new number plate is introduced.

New vehicle registrations in Britain fell by an annual 40% in March as the coronavirus crisis hit the economy and forced many would-be buyers to stay at home, preliminary data from an industry group showed on Monday.

"With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise", SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said in a statement.

"Such a dramatic decline in registrations is proof that COVID-19 will ricochet through the industry for weeks and months ahead", said Karen Hilton, chief commercial officer of auto buying website heycar.

Sales in March fell 44 percent compared with the same month previous year to 2,54,684 units, while first-quarter sales were down by 31 percent to 4,83,557, it said.

The latest figures from the SMMT show that 254,684 new cars were registered in March, 203,370 fewer than in the same period past year.

Mr Hawes added: "This is a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt". New 2020 number plates had led to a sudden surge in purchases for vehicles with sales of fully-electric cars up three-fold to 11,694 units. Other European countries were posting even bigger sales drops: Italy was down by 85%, France by 72% and Spain down by 69% in March.

"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".

That means battery-electric cars overtook plug-in hybrids in popularity, with PHEVs seeing a more modest 38 per cent increase in sales.

"However, COVID-19 pressures in the second half of the month have driven sales down by over 40%, leading to the lowest March sales for over two decades".

"These include contract extensions, payment deferrals, interim loans and refinancing packages".

"As a result, the decline in new vehicle sales does not come as a surprise".

"In the second half though we see the effects of Covid-19 and the United Kingdom lockdown on the motor industry".

While demand for petrol cars fell -40.4% and diesel 61.9%, the SMMT does note that registrations for battery electric vehicles surged by almost 300% to 11,694 units - giving BEVs a 4.6% market share.

"Most dealers are operating remotely, and with few delivering cars right now, there are orders being placed for delivery after lockdown".

It is a popular time to buy because it is one of two occasions when new number plates are released.