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Vehicle registrations plummet 94% as pandemic takes hold

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Vehicle registrations fell by an estimated 94% in April, and 85% in May, compared to the same months last year, according to figures released today by the Department for Transport.

The quarterly Vehicle Licensing Statistics reported 599,000 vehicles were registered in the first quarter of this year, a 30% fall from the first quarter of 2019, resulting in a drop in the total number of licenced vehicles on Britain’s roads – only the second decline in the total number of vehicles on the road since the end of the Second World War.

The figures revealed an 82% decrease in registrations in the last week of March, coinciding with the UK lockdown coming into force and vehicle dealerships and showrooms being required to close, which removed the main method by which new vehicles are sold.

This was followed by 12,340 vehicle registrations in April and 37,100 in May, representing annual drops of 94% and 85% respectively.

However, the number of newly registered ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) shot up to 33,700, an increase of 113% on last year. In contrast, new diesel cars fell by 45% and petrol cars sales were down by 34%.

Mike Hawes the SMMT’s chief executive said, “May’s figures are yet more evidence of why the UK industry, like its global rivals, needs dedicated support to drive a successful restart.

“Government assistance so far has been vital in keeping many businesses afloat, but the job isn’t done. Measures to boost cashflow, including additional and tailored finance schemes, tax relief and business rates deferral would deliver immediate results when liquidity is most acute.

“We have to retain the highly skilled jobs the sector provides but also ensure the business conditions are competitive so we can unlock the investment that will drive long-term recovery – a green recovery – which is inextricably linked to the sector’s success.”

Greg Wilson, founder of leading car insurance comparison website Quotezone.co.uk said, “It’s not a surprise to learn that the lockdown has had a significant impact on vehicles sales, but the scale of that impact is truly staggering, particularly at the height of the lockdown in April and May.

“It’s also significant that the total number of vehicles on the road fell in the first quarter – the first time that number has fallen since 1991, and only the second time since the end of the Second World War.

“This is likely to be due to a combination of fewer new vehicles being registered as the lockdown was introduced, and some motorists deciding to SORN their vehicles if they weren’t likely to need them during lockdown.

“It’s also interesting to note the sharp rise in ULEV registrations – given that many electric cars are able to be delivered directly to the buyer, it’s possible this trend was partly driven by the lockdown as well.”




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