Lowest since 1952: May new car sales 89% down

Published:  04 June, 2020

COVID-19 continued to bite into new car sales in May, with registrations 89% down, according to the latest figures released today (Thursday 4 June) by the SMMT, making it the lowest May for car sales since 1952.

Just 20,247 cars were registered in the month in total, with ‘click and collect’ services, allowed from mid-month, enabling some movement in the market.

Private buyers accounted for the lion’s share of registrations at 63.7% of the market, equivalent to 12,900 units, while 6,638 cars went to fleets. There were severe declines across all segments and fuel types, apart from battery electric vehicles, with 429 more units registered year-on-year.

The overall market is now down 51.4% in the first five months of 2020, at just over half a million registrations compared with more than one million at this point last year.

The news comes in the week that car showrooms in England were allowed to re-open after more than two months under lockdown. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (until next week) however, car showrooms remain closed.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “After a second month of shutdown and the inevitable yet devastating impact on the market, this week’s re-opening of dealerships is a pivotal moment for the entire industry and the thousands of people whose jobs depend on it. Customers keen to trade up into the latest, cutting-edge new cars are now able to return to showrooms and early reports suggest there is good business given the circumstances, although it is far too early to tell how demand will pan out over the coming weeks and months.  Restarting this market is a crucial first step in driving the recovery of Britain’s critical car manufacturers and supply chain, and to supporting the wider economy.”

NFDA Director Sue Robinson added: “As governments across the EU have stepped in to support the automotive sector, it is important that also the UK government consider how to best assist the UK automotive industry, which is one of the pillars of the UK economy and employs in total over 800,000 people.”

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