Coronavirus: Showroom shutdown sees UK new car market down 44%
UK new car registrations fell by almost half (44.4%) in March as the coronavirus crisis caused showrooms to close for a large portion of the month.
In the important plate change month, 203,370 fewer cars were registered than in March 2019, as showrooms closed in line with government advice to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The performance represented a steeper fall than during the 2009 financial crisis and the worst March since the late nineties when the market changed to the bi-annual plate change system.
However, with lockdowns taking place in many European countries earlier than the UK, even more dramatic falls have been reported elsewhere, with Italy down 85%, France 72% and Spain down 69% in March.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, 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.”
During March, the Volkswagen Golf was the most registered car, ahead of the Ford Fiesta.
While many car showrooms are likely to remain closed for the coming weeks, companies are still working to ensure deliveries to critical workers, and the industry is also striving to keep sufficient service and repair workshops open to maintain vehicles which are helping to deliver essential goods and services across the country.