UK car sales crash to 1946 low on virus lockdown

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s new car sales crashed in April to hit the lowest level since 1946, mirroring falls across Europe, with many showrooms shut for the coronavirus lockdown, industry data showed yesterday.

New registrations for all cars collapsed by a “precipitous” 97 per cent last month on a yearly basis to just 4,321 vehicles, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement.

That was the worst performance since February 1946 and compared with 161,000 cars in the same month of 2019.

“The decline was the steepest of modern times, and is in line with similar falls across Europe, with France 88.8 per cent down and the Italian market falling 97.5 per cent in April,” the SMMT said. It added that car showrooms were closed for Britain’s lockdown – which was implemented nationwide on March 23 – but some deliveries did take place for key workers and front-line public services and companies.

The group meanwhile forecast that around 1.68 million new cars will be registered in 2020, which would mark a 27-per cent slump from last year.

And it called for car retailers to be in the first wave of re-openings, when the lockdown starts to be lifted, in order to kick-start economic recovery.

“With the UK’s showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

New vehicles are parked on the quayside as cranes stand above a freight container ship at Seaforth Docks, at the Port of Liverpool in Liverpool, northwest England. Britain’s new car sales crashed in April to hit the lowest level since 1946. PHOTO: AFP