UK car sales crash to almost 30-year low

LONDON (AFP) – British new car sales crashed to the lowest level for almost three decades in 2020, with demand ravaged by chronic coronavirus fallout and Brexit uncertainty, industry data showed yesterday.

Sales tanked by 29.4 per cent compared with 2019 to 1.63 million new vehicles, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed in a statement.

That was the lowest level since 1992.

The sector suffered a revenue loss of GBP20.4 billion (USD27.7 billion, EUR22.6 billion) meanwhile.

“2020 will be seen as a lost year for automotive, with the sector under pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over future European Union (EU) trading conditions taking their toll,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes was quoted as saying.

Floor stickers advising customers to social distance inside a re-opened Renault car dealership, in Old Basing, London. PHOTO: AFP

“However, with the rollout of vaccines and clarity over our new relationship with the EU, we must make 2021 a year of recovery,” he added.

Hawes was also positive around “manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months”.

He warned however that Britain’s latest coronavirus lockdown, implemented this week to combat a spike in infections, would lead to “rocky” trade over the coming months.

Sales took a hit late last year also after the British government said it planned to ban diesel and petrol car sales from 2030 as part of a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.