New car registrations plummet during coronavirus pandemic

Published 05 May 2020

The number of new cars registered in the UK last month plunged to the lowest level since 1946.

A total of 4321 new cars were sold in April 2020, representing a drop of 97.3 per cent compared to the same period last year. It comes as car dealerships close amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of those cars registered went to fleet buyers, with private sales accounting for just 871 registrations.

The figures, released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), make for 'grim reading' says the organisation's chief executive, Mike Hawes.

"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."

Indeed, the electric Jaguar I-Pace accounted for 367 registrations, making it the second top-selling new car last month. It comes as Jaguar hands over 700 I-Pace models as part of a special lease scheme aimed at NHS workers across the country.

The Tesla Model 3 took number one spot, with 658 registered last month. These figures contribute to battery-electric vehicles accounting for nearly a third of all registrations in April.

The sharp decline in the UK new car market in April replicates those elsewhere in Europe - the French market is down 88.8 per cent, while Italy saw a drop of 97.5 per cent last month.

The SMMT expects 1.68 million new cars to be registered in 2020, a sharp drop on the 2.3 million that were sold in 2019. 


Fessel    on 11 May 2020

To my mind it is absolute proof that you don't need to waste money buying a new car every year. Before the inevitable replies slagging me off read on.
My everyday car,a Yaris 1.4 TD Terra, is 6 years old. Starts every time, is very economical and can go fast if I want to. I also have 5 classics including a Rover P6, Triumph Toledo, 1935 Austin 12. all maintained and regularly used. So I'm not exactly anti-car am I?

Paul Chapman    on 11 May 2020

Agreed - we only buy new cars because we have the money and getting something smart makes you feel good .I have a ten year old Merc, as new but worth not much, and an 18 year old Santa Fe worth ziltch but again as new.

Just bought a new BMW before Im too old to drive.

Usually end up giving my older cars to the kids.

tom brehony    on 12 May 2020

Shock horror at the headline , As far as I'm aware motor dealers have been shut for the last six weeks, so maybe why car sales have plummeted...

GTD 184    on 12 May 2020

Why are 'plummenting' car sales apparently 'surprising'?!

For the past 5 years or so our government have massively increased taxation, back tracked on the use of diesel technologies and attempted to force buyers into buying 'not so clean' electric vehicles which are out of the price range of 90% of the population.

JLR are the UK's largest vehicle manufacturer whose vehicle line up whose vehicle price range is predominately above £40k. Is it any wonder then that their share of the UK new car market has plummeted?.....coming at a time when we are encouraged to "Buy British"

The average premium family car being a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class costs more than £40k before discounts and incentives and is hit with a VED premium for 5 years of £310.00 PLUS the standard rate of £150.00.

If it is to be believed, our government are looking to make the first year tax on new vehicles applicable from years 1-6 thus raping the motorist for more money and putting the final nail in the coffin for the UK's motor industry!

aethelwulf    on 12 May 2020

Well, when you are not using a car it just goes out your mind. Never was in mine as my 15 year old Mondeo ( petrol) estate is just fine. Starts, stops does everything it should and never fails its MOT. Expensive VED but cheaper than a new car. I also have a 10 year old Piccanto which I hope will last at least 5 more years. I usually keep a car 15-20 years as I think you get the most out of your cash that way. Keep chopping and you keep paying depreciation

Add a comment


Value my car