New car registrations sank sharply in February by 35.5 per cent to 51,312 units versus the same month in 2020, figures released today (Mar 4) by the SMMT show.
That was 28,282 fewer than usual during a traditionally weak month for new vehicle uptake and was the lowest February on record since 1959, when there were 41,471 registrations
The lockdown restrictions continued to make their presence felt, aIthough it was a slight reversal of the decline seen in January, when they plummeted by 39.5 per cent – the worst for the month for 51 years.
Both private and fleet sector demand fell – by 37.3 per cent and 33.5 per cent respectively.
The SMMT said all vehicle segments reported drops except for luxury saloons, which recorded a 3.8 per cent increase against a statistically very small proportion of the market.
Plug-in vehicles continued to enjoy growth, with BEVs and PHEVs taking a combined 13 per cent market share for the month, up from just 5.7 per cent in February 2020.
BEV uptake rose by 40.2 per cent to 3,516, and PHEVs by 52.1 per cent to 3,131, thanks to the industry continuing to promote a broad range of lower-emission technologies for consumers.
But the SMMT warned that increasing the uptake of the new technologies to the levels needed by 2030, when the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles comes into effect, remained a huge task.
It added that while online orders and click-and-collect were a lifeline, showroom closures meant dealerships would find it a lot more challenging to fill their order banks following what has been calculated as £23bn of fewer registrations since March 2020.
The SMMT has now revised its market outlook to 1.83m new car registrations in 2021 – down from the 1.89m predicted in January – with most of the losses expected to occur in March.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘February is traditionally a small month for car registrations and with showrooms closed for the duration, the decline is deeply disappointing but expected.
‘More concerning, however, is that these closures have stifled dealers’ preparations for March with the expectation that this will now be a third, successive dismal “new plate month”.
‘Although we have a pathway out of restrictions with rapid vaccine roll-out, and proven experience in operating click-and-collect, it is essential that showrooms reopen as soon as possible so the industry can start to build back better, and recover the £23bn loss from the past year.’
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