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2021 must be year of green recovery after new car registrations dropped by nearly 30 per cent in 2020, says SMMT

Time 10 months ago

The UK’s new car market suffered a drop of nearly a third in 2020, with annual registrations plummeting to 1,631,064 units, according to figures released today (Jan 6) by the SMMT.

The industry body said figures were down by 29.4 per cent for the year, with a 10.9 per cent fall in December ending a turbulent 12 months caused by the pandemic.

Demand plummeted by 680,076 units to the lowest level of registrations since 1992, which saw 1.594m new vehicles.


The year saw also saw 31.1 per cent fewer vehicles joining large company car fleets.

The industry suffered a total turnover loss of some £20.4bn, said the SMMT, with private vehicle demand falling by 26.6 per cent overall, equalling a £1.9 billion loss of VAT.

Demand fell across all segments except specialist sports, which grew by seven per cent, although the most popular class of car was still the supermini, retaining a 31.2 per cent market share despite a 25.9 per cent fall in registrations.

Meanwhile, although dropping by a combined 32.9 per cent, petrol and mild hybrid (MHEV) petrol cars comprised 62.7 per cent of registrations, while diesel and MHEV diesels – which were down by 47.6 per cent – made up almost a fifth (19.8 per cent ) of the market.


Battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars had a bumper year, together accounting for more than one in 10 registrations – up from around one in 30 in 2019.

Demand for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) grew by 185.9 per cent to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) went up by 91.2 per cent to 66,877.

More than two-thirds of these registrations – 68 per cent – were for company cars, indicating that private buyers need stronger incentives to make the switch, as well as more investment in charging infrastructure, especially public on-street charging, said the SMMT.

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 the government to encourage drivers to make the switch, while promoting investment in our globally renowned manufacturing base – recharging the market, industry and economy.’

November lockdown in England sees new car sales drop by 27.4 per cent, SMMT figures show

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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