New car sales drop in November as renewed restrictions bite

Published:  07 December, 2020

New car sales dropped by 27.4% in November as renewed COVID-19 lockdown restrictions during the month meant that franchised dealer showrooms were shut down, although the impact on sales was less severe than during the Spring.

According to the latest figures from the SMMT, 113,781 cars were sold during November, which took trade trade back to levels last seen during the recession of 2008.

While the drop was sizeable, it was still dwarfed by the impact of the first lockdown. In April, sales were down by 97.3% in April alone.

While overall sales were down, sales  for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) were up 122.4% and 76.9% respectively. BEVs hit a record 9.1% of registrations at 10,345 , while PHEV share increased to 6.8% at 7,717. This made a combined total of more than 18,000 new zero-emission capable cars.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “Compared with the spring lockdown, manufacturers, dealers and consumers were all better prepared to adjust to constrained trading conditions. But with £1.3 billion worth of new car revenue lost in November alone, the importance of showroom trading to the UK economy is evident and we must ensure they remain open in any future Covid restrictions. More positively, with a vaccine now approved, the business and consumer confidence on which this sector depends can only improve, giving the industry more optimism for the turn of the year.”

Sue Robinson, NFDA Chief Executive, added: “As expected, the national lockdown in England and the additional restrictions across the UK, resulted in a decline in new car sales in November.  However, it is encouraging that this was a far stronger performance than the spring lockdown as dealers were better prepared for ‘click and collect’ retail for their customers.”

She continued, “The significant, sustained growth in the electric vehicle sector is positive, especially given the challenging 2030 deadline to end the sale of internal combustion engine cars. Dealers continue to work hard to meet consumer demand, as the uptake of our Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) accreditation scheme demonstrates, but it is important that businesses and customers continue to be supported during this transition.

  “Going forward, as the sector focuses on the transition to zero emission, it is vital that the government reaches a trade deal with the EU that avoids tariffs on vehicles and vehicle parts to not undermine the stability of the automotive sector, which employs over 800,000 people in the UK.   “The first few days of the month have been busy with pent-up demand driving sales and franchised dealers are looking forward to a buoyant December as the UK emerges from lockdown."  

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