New car market declines by 35.5%

The car industry recorded its lowest February intake since 1959.

The UK new car market declined by 35.5% in February. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) reports that 28,282 fewer units were registered during a traditionally weak month for new vehicle uptake. The industry recorded its lowest February uptake since 1959, with 51,312 new cars registered.  

With showrooms closed nationwide since 5 January – and in many parts of the country, since December – both private and fleet sector demand fell by 37.3% and 33.5% respectively. All vehicle segments saw declines save for luxury saloons, which recorded a 3.8% increase against a statistically very small proportion of the market.   

Plug-in vehicles continued to enjoy growth, with BEVs and PHEVs taking a combined 13.0% market share for the month, up from 5.7% in February 2020. BEV uptake increased by 40.2% to 3,516, and PHEVs by 52.1% to 3,131 as the industry continues to promote a broad range of lower-emission technologies for consumers. 

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 rollout, 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 £23 billion loss from the past year.”  

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