Hyundai Minstergate York new car showroom

New car sales fall 89% in May 2020

Hyundai Minstergate York new car showroom

The new car market was badly affected once again by the coronavirus crisis in May 2020, with the latest figures showing an 89 percent plunge in registrations.

Just 20,247 new cars were registered as showrooms remained closed due to lockdown measures.

These vehicles were delivered mainly through innovative new ‘click and collect’ processes.

For the second month running, the Tesla Model 3 was Britain’s best-selling car.

Alternative fuel vehicles, including electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, actually took a bigger market share than diesel cars, claiming more than 19 percent of the market. 

Worst since 1952

In May 2019, over 183,000 new cars hit the road, according to the official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

May 2020, by contrast, was the worst May on record since 1952.

Car showrooms reopened on Monday 1 June and retailers are reporting good business, which the car industry hopes will signal a recovery in new car sales.

In April 2020, just 4,321 new cars were registered: a 97 percent decline.

The electric Tesla Model 3 became the UK’s best-selling new car, with the Jaguar I-Pace (also an EV) in second place.

Year-to-date, the UK new car market has more than halved in size compared to 2019. 

“After a second month of shutdown and the inevitable yet devastating impact on the market, this week’s reopening of dealerships is a pivotal moment for the entire industry,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Early reports suggest there is good business given the circumstances, although it is far too early to tell how demand will pan out over the coming weeks and months.”

Not surprising

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said the figures were not surprising but insisted the market was paused, not stopped. “Now, it’s clearly restarting.”

Pent up demand was considerable, he said, with Auto Trader audience numbers now back up to pre-coronavirus levels.

“There remain question marks, though, about the sustainability of this demand over the mid-term.

“There are growing calls for government incentives to support the industry.”

Germany and France have already acted, said Mr Plummer: the UK “will now need to act fast to keep pace”.

May 2020: Top 10 best-selling cars

1: Tesla Model 3

2: Vauxhall Corsa

3: Ford Fiesta

4: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

5: Ford Focus

6: Volvo XC40

7: BMW 1 Series

8: Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

9: Ford Kuga

10: Mercedes-Benz E-Class


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New car sales collapse to 1946 levels – but Tesla Model 3 is UK number 1

Line-up of new Lexus carsUK new car registrations plunged more than 97 percent in April 2020 to levels not seen since early 1946, official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal. 

The UK lockdown announced on 23 March saw car dealers close their showrooms, effectively pausing registrations and deliveries for all but a handful. 

Companies accounted for 71.5 percent of the registrations, a much greater proportion than normal. This indicates most deliveries were bulk fleet car orders, arranged well before lockdown. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the April 2020 figures were “hardly surprising”. 

Tesla Model 3

Incredibly, the Tesla Model 3 electric car was the best-selling vehicle in April, well ahead of another all-electric car: the Jaguar I-Pace

In January, Jaguar signed a deal to supply 700 I-Paces to the NHS

Zero-emissions battery electric cars easily took their highest market share ever, accounting for almost 1 in 3 new cars sold. 

Vauxhall was third with the all-new Corsa, the AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020. Vauxhall also offers an all-electric version, the Corsa-e

New rules were introduced in April 2020 meaning EV company car drivers pay ZERO Benefit-in-Kind tax

In another first, there were two passenger vans in the top 10 best-sellers list as well, the Ford Tourneo Custom and Peugeot Rifter. 

Just 4,321 cars

April new car registrations 2004 to 2020

A mere 4,321 new cars were registered in April 2020, a decline of 97.3 percent in a year.

In April 2019, more than 161,000 new cars were registered, illustrating the scale of the fall. 

That itself was the second-worst April for new car sales since 2012, due to a 10 percent decline in private buyer demand. 

The SMMT has responded by downgrading its full-year estimate for new car sales to 1.68 million vehicles. This would be a level last seen in 1992. 

Last year, 2.31 million new cars were sold

New car registrations had already fallen 44 percent in March. European registrations were down 55 percent

In February 1946, just months after the end of World War II, just 4,044 new cars were registered. 

Top 10 best-selling vehicles: April 2020

1: Tesla Model 3 (658 cars)

2: Jaguar I-Pace (367 cars)

3: Vauxhall Corsa (264 cars)

4: Vauxhall Crossland X (143 cars)

5: Ford Tourneo Custom (108 passenger vans)

6: Peugeot Rifter (94 passenger vans)

7: Seat Leon (80 cars)

8: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (72 cars)

9: Nissan Leaf (72 cars)

10: Peugeot 308 (67 cars)

‘Worst in living memory’

Mr Hawes from the SMMT said the market performance was the worst in living memory. 

“These figures… make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

“A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard.”

April 2020 car sales: industry response

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said some brands had been able to sell remotely, but a lack of infrastructure meant only a few – most prominently, Tesla – were able to capitalise. 

The new car marketplace is still receiving 1 million visits a day, though. Mr Plummer says data shows only 2 percent of consumers say they will no longer be buying a new vehicle. 

“25 percent said they wanted to buy as soon as they could, and 57 percent said they’d still buy in 2020.”

Data suggests the market “has been paused, rather than stopped, and [is] ready to return to health quickly once restrictions have been lifted”. 


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Ford Fiesta

UK new car registrations down 20% as VED changes introduced

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations plummeted by 19.8% in April as new car tax rates were introduced.

That’s according to data released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which shows 152,076 new cars were registered last month – making it the worst April since 2012.

The new VED rates, which were brought into force on on 1 April 2017, introduced a flat-rate of £140 for all petrol and diesel vehicles after the first year, compared to the CO2-based system used previously.

While electric cars continue to be tax-free, alternative-fuel vehicles including hybrid and plug-in hybrid models face a £130 yearly fee. This has resulted in the first downturn in alternatively-fuelled car registrations in nearly four years, as registrations dropped by 1.3% compared to April 2016.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower,” said SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes. “It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”

Registrations by private buyers were down by 28.4%, while businesses and large fleets also registered fewer cars (-21.0% and -12.3% respectively).

Despite the substantial hit in April, the SMMT says the overall new car market remains ‘strong’, with registrations over the first four months of 2017 up 1.1% compared to 2016.

April 2017 best sellers top 10

  1. Ford Fiesta: 4,957
  2. Nissan Qashqai: 4,430
  3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 3,777
  4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 3,608
  5. Ford Focus: 3,421
  6. Vauxhall Astra: 3,346
  7. Volkswagen Golf: 3,223
  8. Audi A3: 3,000
  9. Volkswagen Polo: 2,800
  10. BMW 1 Series: 2,740
Record new car sales in 2016 - but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

Record new car sales in 2016 – but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

Record new car sales in 2016 - but Brexit could hit industry hard in 2017

The number of new cars registered in the UK hit a record high last year, with nearly 2.7 million cars sold in 2016.

That’s according to figures released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – but the organisation’s chief executive has warned the industry could be in for a ‘lumpy’ ride in 2017.

Speaking at a briefing held in London, Mike Hawes told Motoring Research that he expects the number of new cars registered this year to dip by 5-6% to around 2.55 million.

The trade body chief exec suggested that we might see a spike in new car registrations, particularly for premium cars, in March, as buyers attempt to ‘beat’ the new VED (car tax) bands being introduced in April.

Price rises expected

This is despite Theresa May aiming to trigger Article 50 that month – something which Hawes doesn’t think will in itself have a big effect on numbers. What will have an impact, he said, is price rises caused by the weakness of the pound – an effect the industry has already started to see.

Hawes said: “Ultimately, a fall in sterling is going to flow through to an increase in pricing, probably of the magnitude of 2-3% over the coming months.”

He explained that more than 85% of cars sold in the UK are imported, but customers might not be too concerned about minor price rises. The majority of private car sales involve finance in some way, so a small increase in a car’s list price would result in a tiny rise in monthly repayments.

Some manufacturers might try to soak up the price rise rather than pass it onto customers. This would, however, mean they have smaller margins to work with so might not be able to tempt buyers with impressive finance deals and promotions – something which is partly credited with the success of UK car sales in 2016.

Registrations of diesel cars slump

The figures released this morning also reveal that diesel cars appear to be out of favour, with diesels accounting for 47.7% of all new car registrations – a drop of 0.8% compared to their market share in 2015.  They still sold record numbers overall, however, and Hawes says he doesn’t think this decrease is necessarily down to Dieselgate.

“Supermini and mini [city] car segments are growing,” he said, “and these are usually powered by petrol engines. People are buying more smaller cars and that could explain why we’ve seen a drop in the popularity of diesel.”

He also credited investment in alternatively-fuelled cars and a growing interest in new technology for the drop in diesel car sales.