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04 Feb 2021 | 09:37

UK new car registrations record worst start to the year in over half a century

(Sharecast News) - Britain's new car market fell 39.5% in January as 59,030 fewer registrations were made compared to the same month a year ago. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, just 90,249 cars were registered as showrooms across the country remained shut due to lockdown measures implemented by Downing Street to curb the spread of Covid-19, leading to the worst start to the year since 1970.

Demand remained depressed for both private buyers and large fleets, down 38.5% and 39.7%, respectively, while declines were also recorded in both petrol and diesel car registrations, down 62.1% and 50.6%, respectively.

On a positive note, however, battery electric vehicle uptake grew 54.4% to take 6.9% of the total UK market - partly thanks to the number of available models almost doubling from 22 in January 2019 to 40 at the same time two years later. Combined, battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for 13.7% of registrations.

The SMMT warned that with lockdown restrictions in place until March, the "most important month of the year for the sector", the industry will "face a challenging year", with the effects of the current lockdown laid out in the industry body's latest market outlook.

"Having expected more than 2.0m new cars to be registered in 2021, this forecast has now been downgraded to below 1.9m given the more severe negative impact on first-quarter performance and March in particular," said the SMMT.

"The forecast does represent an increase of 15.7% compared to 2020's 'lost year' but it would still be a very subdued market in historical terms, given the ten-year average new car market to 2019 was 2.3m. More positively, however, BEVs and PHEVs are estimated to grow their combined market share from just over one in ten new cars, to more than one in seven."

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes stated the necessary lockdown would also challenge society, the economy and the industry's ability to move quickly towards its ambitious environmental goals.
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