UK car sales plunged 97% in April, with private customers only registering 871 new vehicles

UK car sales plunged 97% in April, with private customers only registering 871 new vehicles
Sales of new cars in Britain plunged 97 percent in April, striking the lowest level since 1946, as coronavirus fallout slams the brakes on economic output, data revealed Tuesday.Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images
  • Only 4,321 new cars were registered in the UK last month — the lowest that figure has been since 1946.
  • Of those, only 871 were from retail customers.
  • The UK is on track to having its worst year in car sales since 1992.
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The UK just suffered what is likely its worst month of car sales since the end of World War II.

New-car registrations in April declined sharply by 97%, which lines Britain's automotive industry up for its worst sales year in almost three decades, according to the Financial Times. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders claimed that a measly 4,321 cars were registered in April, which is the lowest monthly figure since 1946. April 2019, conversely, saw 161,064 cars sold.

What's bleaker still is that of those 4,321 cars sold, only 871 of them went to retail customers. The rest were purchased by fleets or businesses.

Car sales in the UK, per the Financial Times, are expected to decrease to 1.68 million, which would make 2020 the worst year since 1992. It'd also be down from the 2.3 million cars sold in 2019 — a dip of more than 600,000 vehicles.

Poor sales in the UK are similar to those in Italy and Spain, which have also been hit by dealership and factory closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover, PSA Group, and Aston Martin have all suspended UK production in one way or another.


The Financial Times notes the Tesla Model 3 was the UK's best-selling car in April, but that was because Tesla uses a direct sales model and wasn't affected by dealer closures.

Slowly, though, plants are reopening. Volkswagen, for example, reopened its Wolfsburg, Germany, plant at the end of April. But it's unclear how quickly demand will return, as many buyers are still staying at home and unsure of their financial futures.

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