March 2020 new car registrations fall 44%

New car registrations in March fell 44.4% due to the impact of coronavirus. Total registrations for the month reached 254,684 units. In 2019 March new car registrations hit 458,054.

The year to date total is down 31.0% at 483,557 new cars registered. The market had been running down 5.8% in the first two months of the year.

Early SMMT analysis downgrades 2020 outlook to 1.73 million units, -23% lower than previous expectation.

Commenting on the figures Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise. Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the bi-annual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month. We should not, however, draw long term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt.

“How long the market remains stalled is uncertain, but it will re-open and the products will be there. In the meantime, we will continue to work with government to do all we can to ensure the thousands of people employed in this sector are ready for work and Britain gets back on the move.”

However, manufacturers are starting to fight back on new car sales by pushing its online sales. Ford, which dropped to second place behind VW in the registration figures, has today launched a dedicated finance package which gives buyers a three-month payment holiday at the start of the agreement.

Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain managing director, said: “Ford wants to reassure customers that unprecedented times should not prevent them opting for a replacement new car or van.

“Customers are putting a new-found priority on reliable motoring from a trusted brand and our innovative ‘Peace of Mind’ programme helps achieve that.”

Currently, in line with national guidelines, vehicle showrooms are closed in preference for online and remote sales. However, the manufacturer claims that for select customers requiring their new vehicles urgently (key workers, first-time Motability scheme users and companies involved in combating the emergency), retailers can arrange by exception a mutually convenient and safe way to hand over the vehicle.

[source: Auto Retail online]