2020 was worst year for car sales since 1992

Published:  06 January, 2021

New car sales in 2020 fell 29.4% to a level not seen since 1992 according to the latest figures from the SMMT, with the total for December down 10.9%. In total, the industry experienced a £20.4 billion turnover loss.

1,631,064 new cars were registered during the year, 680,076 lower than in 2019. While this was partly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and the prolonged uncertainties around Brexit, the year also saw a transition appear to begin. During the year, the government declared that the ban on new diesel and petrol cars was being brought forward to 2030.

In fact, demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) grew by 185.9% to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) rose 91.2% to 66,877. 68% of these were bought as company cars however, suggesting that private buyers are looking for more direct incentives, and may be waiting for significant investment in charging infrastructure to take place, particularly in public on-street charging,   Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “2020 will be seen as a ‘lost year’ for automotive, with the sector under pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over future trading conditions taking their toll. However, with the rollout of vaccines and clarity over our new relationship with the EU, we must make 2021 a year of recovery.

“With manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months, we will work with government to encourage drivers to make the switch, while promoting investment in our globally-renowned manufacturing base – recharging the market, industry and economy.” 

Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the NFDA added: “Given the significant and unexpected challenges that faced the automotive sector and the whole economy in 2020, particularly the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is unsurprising that new car sales declined.     “It is encouraging that despite the issues affecting the automotive industry and the economy, the EV market continued to grow, showing an increase in consumer appetite.

 “Overall, 2020 was a difficult year and the recently announced third national lockdown will be challenging. However, in the longer term the signing of an agreement with the EU, the shift to EVs and the resilient nature of franchised dealers mean they are well placed for growth.”

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