The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) published figures in April 2021 that shows its first ‘growth’ in the car market since August 2020. There have been 29,280 more units registered during March 2021 than compared to last march.

Sadly, March represents the anniversary of the first lockdown in March 2020, when registrations fell by -44.4%

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard. 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.”

Car Registration Sales

From 2010 to 2019, the average registrations of cars in March were 450,189, however, they were down -36.9% with 283,964 units registered only. 58,032 fewer cars have been registered in 2021 compared to January to March last year which is equivalent to a loss of £1.8 billion in turnover during the first quarter.

In order for the sector to return to its pre-pandemic levels, around 8,300 new cars will need to be registered every single trading day for the rest of 2021. Currently, registration levels are closer to 5,600 a day which is lower than the average of 7,400 per day.

Overall, registrations were slightly up compared to last year however, growth came almost entirely from fleets, which saw a 28.7% increase in registrations. Retail consumer demand fell by -4.1% compared to March 2020 due to showrooms being closed for the duration of the month.

Click and Collect was beneficial for the sector during the pandemic, however, it did not offer the consumer the same service and experience as a showroom environment. With dealerships now open, customers can choose and configure a new car from multiple choices safely and dealers can attempt to recover some of the £22.2 billion lost in turnover since March 2020.

Plug-in Vehicle demand

Plug-in vehicle demand reached its highest ever volume. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) took a combined market share of 13.9%, up from 7.3% last year as the number of models available to customers increased from 72 to 116. Registrations of BEVs increased by 88.2% to 22,003 units, while PHEVs rose by 152.2% to 17,330. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) also rose 42.0% to reach 21,599 registrations.

“New plug-in models are already helping drive a recovery but to convince more retail consumers to make the switch, they must be assured these new technologies will be convenient for their driving needs and that means, above all, that the charging infrastructure is there where they need it, and when they need it.”- Mike Hawes.