April showrooms reopening sees new car sales leap 30-fold

Published:  05 May, 2021

The reopening of new car showrooms in April led to a massive jump in car sales during the month compared with the same period in 2020, although overall volumes were still 12.9% lower than the 10 year average.141,583 new cars were sold during the month, according to the latest figures from the SMMT, released today (Wednesday 5 May). This was 30 times more than were sold during April 2020 at the start of the first lockdown, when just 4,321 cars were registered.

Plug-in vehicles made up 13.2% of vehicles sold. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), made up 6.8% of the market, while battery electric vehicles (BEVs) constituted 6.5%, following cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant. However, monthly BEV uptake dropped in comparison with Q1 2021 overall, during which they had been running at 7.5% of the total.

As a result of the improving situation, around vaccinations and lockdown easing, the SMMT has increased its sales forecast for 2021 from 1.83 million to 1.86 million, which would represent a 13.9% increase on 2020. This would still be 20.2% less than the 2.33 million average seen between 2010 and 2019.

BEVs are now expected make up 8.9% of the total by the end of the year. This is less than the 9.3% initially forecast in January, as a result of the changes to the Plug-in Car Grant announced in March. With PHEVs anticipated to take a 6.3% market share, total plug-in vehicles should comprise 15.2% of all cars registered in 2021.

Commenting on April’s figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “After one of the darkest years in automotive history, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A full recovery for the sector is still some way off, but with showrooms open and consumers able to test drive the latest, cleanest models, the industry can begin to rebuild. Market confidence is improving, and we now expect to finish the year in a slightly better position than anticipated in February, largely thanks to the more upbeat business and consumer confidence created by the successful vaccine rollout. That confidence should also translate into another record year for electric vehicles, which will likely account for more than one in seven new car registrations.”

NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson added: “April’s results are positive considering dealerships have been open for less than three weeks, with sales previously supported by click & collect; since reopening, customer footfall and volume of enquiries at dealerships have been strong and driving schools are seeing a major increase in young people booking driving lessons and tests.

“All of this leads us to believe that there is a very upbeat outlook ahead for the motor industry in the summer and retailers are looking forward to a further release of the pent-up demand accumulated over the past months.”

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