The UK new car market fell by 39.5% in January with 59,030 fewer registrations compared with the same month last year, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
A total of 90,249 cars were registered as showrooms across the country remained shut, leading to the worst start to the year since 1970.
Declines were recorded in both petrol and diesel cars registrations, which fell by 62.1% and 50.6% respectively. However, battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake grew by 2,206 units (54.4%) to take 6.9% of the market, as the number of available models almost doubled from 22 in January 2019 to 40 this year. Combined, BEVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) accounted for 13.7% of registrations.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Following a £20.4bn loss of revenue last year, the auto industry faces a difficult start to 2021. The necessary lockdown will challenge society, the economy and our industry’s ability to move quickly towards our ambitious environmental goals. Lifting the shutters will secure jobs, stimulate the essential demand that supports our manufacturing, and will enable us to forge ahead on the Road to Zero.”
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, commented: “Sales of electrified vehicles have begun the year with a strong performance and with more models coming to the market, the improvement to the charging infrastructure and retailers investing heavily to inform their customers, sales of EVs will continue to grow.
“Despite the lockdown, the automotive retail sector is looking at 2021 with confidence as sales will likely be fuelled by pent-up demand, rising registrations of low and zero emission vehicles and the increasing importance of car ownership, which is seen by more and more people as the safest mean of personal transport in the present climate.”