By on May 5, 2020

With COVID-19 lockdowns suppressing auto sales around the globe, everyone expected April to be a rough month. However, we doubt the United Kingdom expected monthly deliveries to come in at the lowest level since the end of World War II. Registrations for April peaked at 4,321 in the UK, representing the lowest monthly figure since 1946 — when the nation was still rationing materials as it attempted to rebuild after a prolonged military conflict (and factories were just starting to transition back to manufacturing passenger vehicles).

While it’s possible some registrations are simply delayed, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says it doesn’t believe that to be a significant factor. Retailers typically register the vehicle for you and, with with precious little else to do, you’d think they’d have finished whatever paperwork they had lying around. Most of them, of course, weren’t capable of operating normally due to government mandates, allowing the few outlets offering at-home delivery to make up the lion’s share of sales. 

According to the Financial Times, only 871 vehicles actually went to retail customers in April. The other 3,450 were roped into various business fleets.

From FT:

The sales drop mirrors sharp declines in Spain and Italy, which like other European countries have been thumped by the closure of dealerships and factories, and consumers remaining at home under the COVID-19 lockdown.

UK car sales for the year are now expected to be 1.68m, making 2020 the worst year since 1992, and down from the 2.3m sales figure for 2019.

The SMMT said dealerships should be among the first services to reopen to spur economic recovery after the lockdown and protect hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by the sector.

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

“These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.”

As stated before, retailers not dependent upon a storefront made the best of a bad situation. This resulted in the Tesla Model 3 being the best-selling car in Britain last month. Whether or not home deliveries are actually safer can be debated, as can the merits of purchasing a car sight unseen, Regardless, it was one of the only ways to procure a new car in the United Kingdom last month, so the surrounding issues are moot for our purposes.

With the market in a bad way, experts are now trying to predict what the recovery phase will look like. Most automakers are eager to resume production as governments slowly walk back lockdown rules. FT said China, where the virus originated, eased its aggressive pandemic protocols in March. That reportedly resulted in mass-market vehicles selling at half their typical strength, with premium brands almost back to normal. Despite data from China always being suspect, it is presumed to mimic global trends as we inch closer to modern-day serfdom things return to normal.

[Image: Quirky Badger/Shutterstock]

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6 Comments on “UK Car Sales See Worst Month in 74 Years...”

  • avatar

    Wait, the head of the SMMT’s name sounds vaguely like “My Cars”?

    That’s awesome.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Good news, more people will use public transportation.

    • 0 avatar

      …and infect each other more.

      The system works.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know, in our state of CA high density construction around public transportation hubs is mandatory and hi priority in every city. There is certain amount each city has to build. Also homeless population is moved into empty hotel rooms, so I do not think tourism is possible anytime soon. Most hotels will go bankrupt anyway and homeless may stay there permanently. Most restaurants may be gone too. We are living in the new era. It reminds me the revolution otherwise known as collapse of Soviet Union. Things changed, for better but it was painful in the beginning.

        • 0 avatar

          “It reminds me the revolution otherwise known as collapse of Soviet Union.”

          I’ve been calling this for years.

          I will be interested to see how the existing structures such as hotels, office space, and strip malls will be re-used. My guess is… residential living space.

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