The UK’s used car market declined by 8.9% in the first quarter of 2021 according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
A total of 1,687,755 transactions took place, with the overall decline driven by large falls in January and February, down 27.1% and 19.4% respectively, as lockdown measures depressed demand and again closed car showrooms nationwide.
March saw the market show signs of recovery with a 32.2% year-on-year rise, amounting to 638,570 cars changing hands, although this compares with a weak March 2020 when the UK entered its first lockdown partway through the month. Compared with 2019, March was down 8.4%, and Q1 was down 16.5% or 332,389 fewer transactions.
Among the turbulence, demand for used battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) remained strong in Q1. HEV transactions rose 16.6% to 27,694 units while PHEVs saw a 32.1% uplift to 10,534 units, and BEVs surged 48.3% to 6,564 sales.
However, the combined number of plug-in vehicles traded still represented only 1.0% of the market, up from 0.7% in Q1 2020. Petrol and diesel powertrains combined represented 97.1% of all first quarter activity at 1,638,536 units.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “These figures lay bare the turbulent impact of coronavirus lockdowns on the used car market and, while March’s performance suggests there is some pent-up demand, this is against a weak month last year, so its true extent remains to be seen.
“The second quarter will see significant growth as last year’s April and May markets were severely limited by lockdown measures. It’s vital that the used market is rejuvenated to help sustain jobs and livelihoods, drive fleet renewal and support environmental progress. With car showrooms open again and the UK coming out of Covid restrictions, the sector can look forward with renewed optimism.”