Car sales in January: Worst new year start since 1970

Published:  04 February, 2021

New car sales fell by 39.5% in January, with the 90,249 vehicles sold during the month providing the worst start to a year since 1970, the latest figures from the SMMT have revealed.

The month saw a new national lockdown imposed across England, which meant showrooms had to close.  Only click and collect provision prevented an even more significant drop.

While petrol and diesel cars registrations fell by 62.1% and 50.6% respectively, battery electric vehicle sales were up 54.4% at 2,206 cars, representing 6.9% of the market. Combined with plug-in hybrids, they made up 13.7% of the total.    The SMMT’s latest market outlook has now been downgraded to predict 1.9 million new cars being sold in 2021. While this would be 15.7% higher than 2020, it is still lower than the 10-year average of 2.3 million.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “Following a £20.4 billion loss of revenue last year, the auto industry faces a difficult start to 2021. The necessary lockdown will challenge society, the economy and our industry’s ability to move quickly towards our ambitious environmental goals.

“Lifting the shutters will secure jobs, stimulate the essential demand that supports our manufacturing, and will enable us to forge ahead on the Road to Zero. Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming.”

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