Worst start to a year for new car registrations since 1970 as sales drop by 39.5 per cent in January

Time 3 months ago

January saw the worst start to a year for new car sales since 1970 as showroom closures meant just 90,249 vehicles were registered – a 39.5 per cent drop on 2019, figures out today (Jan 4) show.

That was 59,030 fewer registrations versus the same month last year, according to the SMMT. A total of 84,807 cars were registered in January 1970.

Demand fell last month for private buyers – down by 38.5 per cent – and large fleets (39.7 per cent).


Declines were also recorded for petrol and diesel cars registrations, dropping by 62.1 per cent and 50.6 per cent respectively.

There was, however, a positive note, said the SMMT, with battery-electric vehicle (BEV) uptake growing by 2,206 units (54.4 per cent) to take 6.9 per cent of the market.

That was helped by the number of available models almost doubling from 22 in January 2019 to 40 in 2021.

BEVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) together accounted for 13.7 per cent of registrations.


The SMMT had expected more than two million new cars to be registered in 2021, but because ot the current lockdown this has now been downgraded to below 1.9m.

It’s still a 15.7 per cent increase of on what the SMMT has dubbed 2020’s ‘lost year’, though.

The trade body added that there can be no let-up in the pace of environmental improvement, since the industry has to achieve a UK-only CO2 fleet average target of 95g/km this year or face severe penalties.

That underscores the need to get showrooms open as soon as Britain emerges from lockdown, so they can generate the demand needed to reach the country’s green goals, it said.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘Following a £20.4bn 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.’

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

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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