Currently reading: New car registrations up as dealers prepare to open
Number of new cars registered in UK rose by 11.5% as dealerships prepared to welcome back customers
Joe Holding
2 mins read
6 April 2021

Registrations have grown for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with 283,964 new cars hitting UK roads in March – 29,280 more than in the same month last year.

Growth of 11.5% - albeit compared with the month in which the first national lockdown began and sales tumbled 44.4% - is positive news for the industry as dealers prepare to reopen showrooms on 12 April.

Dealerships were forced to close their doors on 5 January along with all other non-essential retailers when the current restrictions were brought into force to combat rising Covid-19 infections.

However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says that the latest number remains 36.9% down on the 10-year March average and that 58,032 fewer new cars were registered in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12 months ago.

The SMMT estimates that this shortfall has cost the industry £1.8 billion. It believes that 8300 new cars will need to be registered every business day for the rest of the year for the market to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Diesel vehicles performed worst of all in March, with 31.4% fewer registered than in March 2020. Diesels are 46.9% down for the year to date and now represent just 11.4% of registrations in the UK.

A total of 137,557 petrol vehicles were registered last month, 10% down on the 152,816 shifted in March 2020. But registrations of mild-hybrid vehicles continue to rise, up 134.9% on last year’s levels and now accounting for 19.3% of the overall market.

That’s only slightly behind battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles combined, which shared 21.4% of the market in March. A total of 22,003 fully electric cars were registered, up by 88.2%. This was in spite of the sudden reduction of the government’s plug-in car grant, which fell from £3000 to £2500 and can now only be applied to cars costing less than £35,000, rather than £50,000.

Meanwhile, the number of plug-in hybrids registered shot up from 6872 to 17,330 – a 152.2% rise.

“The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return.

“We know we will see record-breaking growth next month, given April 2020 was a washout, but a strong and sustainable market is possible if customers are attracted to the choice and competitive offer the industry is able to provide within the safest of showroom environments.”

Read more

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Peter Cavellini 6 April 2021

Yeah, I've seen a lot of new metal appear all of a sudden, must be some good deals being offered,but,  what about the web pages who source you a car with your desired options at a lower price than actually going to the dealer?, if you can buy a car like that, why would you bother ?, let's just say, hopefully that car businesses and others start to get good sales figures.

scotty5 6 April 2021

I'm lost, totally lost with this. No sooner have I just read an article which says a sales boost is unexpected, I read an article which says sales are up. I then read that article and needless to say SMMT, who're never happy with anything, quote a 10yr trend. Why not quote a 20yr trend, or a 30yr trend or 40yr trend? It just goes to prove you can make figures out to be whatever you want them to be.

I don't give a damn what the SMMT say, here on the ground I've bought two brand new cars in the past 18 months and on each occasion, dealers said business was great. In fact when I picked up my last car in Nov, the dealers I visited were run off their feet. A couple of family members who're in the trade say sales have exceeded all expectations, the guys have been working 7 days a week. And when I walk along the roadside and look at cars, there are absolutley loads of 69, 70 and now 21 plate cars.

What I'm seeing with my own eyes just doesn't stack up with what the SMMT are claiming.  

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