New car sales plunge 44% in March

March is usually a peak month for new car sales but the coronavirus caused registrations to collapse by more than 40%.

Renault car dealer

The coronavirus crisis has caused a severe shock to new car sales, with March registrations plummeting 44.4 percent, new figures reveal. 

A staggering 203,000 fewer cars were sold last month. 

March is usually the strongest month of the year for new car registrations. 

ALSO READ: New car sales down for THIRD year running in 2019

The sudden fall is even more severe than that seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders say it was the worst March since the late 1990s. 

The SMMT has also downgraded its full-year figure by a whopping 23 percent, to 1.73 million new cars sold.

The record figure for UK new car sales was achieved just four years ago, with 2.67 million new cars sold.

‘Could have been worse’

“With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. 

“Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the bi-annual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month.

“We should not, however, draw long term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt.”

Mr Hawes said it is uncertain how long the new car market will remain stalled. 

In more positive news, battery electric vehicles took a 4.6 percent market share, with 11,694 EVs taking to the roads. 

In 2019, electric car market share was less than 1 percent. 

Diesel, however, continued to plunge, taking a paltry 17.6 percent share of the overall market.

This is down even from the much-reduced 25 percent share just one year ago. 

Newer ‘mild hybrid’ diesels (similar to our Kia Sportage long-term test vehicle) took a 3.5 percent share, while mild hybrid petrols took a 4.6 percent share of March 2020 registrations. 

Best-selling cars: March 2020

1: Volkswagen Golf

2: Ford Fiesta

3: Mini

4: Ford Focus

5: Nissan Qashqai

6: Vauxhall Corsa

7: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

8: Kia Sportage

9: Other (Tesla Model 3)

10: Range Rover Evoque

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Richard Aucock
I'm director at Motoring Research. I run a bit, cycle a bit, have a huge love for the automotive industry.


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