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February sees another big fall for UK new car market amid continuing lockdown

Date: 04 March 2021   |   Author: Sean Keywood

UK new car registrations were down by 35.5% year-on-year in February, as Covid-19 lockdown measures kept dealerships shut.

With sales restricted to online orders and click-and-collect, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that demand from fleet buyers saw a 33.5% fall, but that this was still enough to outperform private sales, which fell by 37.3%.

Business sales, to fleets with fewer than 25 vehicles, fell by 56.6%.

It was another relatively strong month for plug-in car sales, with fully electric registrations up by 40.2% to take 6.9% of the market, while plug-in hybrid registrations were up by 52.1% for a 6.1% market share.

Conventional hybrid registrations were down by 22.8%, taking a 6.3% market share.

Diesel registrations plummeted by 61% to take just 13.2% of the market, though these were partly compensated for by mild hybrid diesels, up by 37.9% for a 5.4% market share.

Similarly, where petrol car sales were down by 44.5%, though still strong enough for a 52.1% market share, mild hybrid petrols were up by 56.8% to take 10.1% of the market.

The SMMT says that continuing showroom closures mean it has downgraded its sales prediction for the year. It now projects 1.83 million total registrations in 2021, down from the 1.89 million it predicted last month.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "February is traditionally a small month for car registrations and with showrooms closed for the duration, the decline is deeply disappointing but expected. 

"More concerning, however, is that these closures have stifled dealers' preparations for March with the expectation that this will now be a third successive dismal 'new plate month'. 

"Although we have a pathway out of restrictions with rapid vaccine rollout, and proven experience in operating click and collect, it is essential that showrooms reopen as soon as possible so the industry can start to build back better, and recover the £23 billion loss from the past year."