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New car market down as dealers look forward to reopening

NFDA 04/03/2021

“The decline of 35.5% in February was expected as the national lockdown continued, but looking ahead, with showrooms due to reopen soon and significant pent-up demand, dealers are optimistic”, said Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, commenting on the latest SMMT’s new passenger car registration figures.

New car sales declined by -35.5% in February in the UK as a result of the lockdown, a total of 51,312 units were registered. Registrations of petrol and diesel cars were down by -44.5% and -61.0% respectively from February 2020 when the country had not yet experienced the outbreak of the pandemic. Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) continued the upward trend: up 40.2% and 52.1% respectively. Year to date, the market is now -38.1% below last year’s levels, to a total of 141,561 units.

Sue Robinson added: “The plate change month will incentivise consumers and there is significant pent up demand, as evidenced by industry data* suggesting that many car buyers are waiting for dealerships to reopen to complete their purchases.

“Positively, sales of Battery and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles continued to rise, although with showrooms closed, feedback from retailers suggests that it can be more challenging to sell cars that consumers may not be fully familiar with, such as electrified vehicles that have only just entered the market. Customers want to see these cars, try them and ask questions in person, indicating that also our transition to a zero-emission market will benefit from the reopening of dealerships.

“Online sales, with ‘click & collect’ and deliveries, have been providing a lifeline for retailers who demonstrated once again their resilience selling nearly two thirds of the new cars sold this time last year before the outbreak of the pandemic when dealerships were open and operating normally; however, dealers are now looking forward to reopening soon and safely welcoming customers back into showrooms”.





*A recent What Car? survey stated that 59% of car buyers are delaying their purchase until dealerships reopen. Additional data from What Car? released last week suggested that 95% of potential car buyers would be comfortable entering a dealership when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

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About the RMI

The Retail Motor Industry represents the interests of operators in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man providing sales and services to motorists and businesses. The RMI has a formal association with the independent Scottish Motor Trade Association which represents the retail motor industry in Scotland.