January new car sales at lowest level since 1970

The first month of 2021 saw a 39.5 per cent decline in new car registrations year-on-year, with showroom closures stifling demand

January new-car sales fell to their lowest level since 1970, with 39.5 per cent fewer new cars registered than in the same month in 2020.

With lockdowns across all four nations of the UK keeping dealership doors firmly shut throughout the month, only 90,249 new cars were registered - 59,030 fewer than in January last year.

Demand was down 38.5 per cent with private buyers and 39.7 per cent with fleet purchasers, with petrol and diesel registrations falling 62.1 per cent (44,903 sales), and 50.6 per cent (11,083 sales) respectively. 

EV registrations grew 54.4 per cent (6,260 sales), though, taking a 6.4 per cent share of the market, while plug-in hybrid sales grew 28 per cent (6,124 sales) for a 6.8 per cent market share. That means plug-in cars of one sort or another accounted for 13.7 per cent of all new registrations last month, outperforming diesel’s 12.3 per cent market share. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which released the figures, has pointed out that lockdown restrictions aren’t expected to start being lifted until March, which sees a new number plate launch and is the most important month of the year for the sector, with one in five new car registrations taking place.

Concerned about the decline in registrations having a knock-on effect on manufacturing - which fell to its lowest annual level since 1984 last year - the SMMT is calling for dealerships to be reopened “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

It was previously expected that more than two million new cars would be registered in 2021, but this forecast has now been reduced to below 1.9 million. This would, however, still be 15.7 per cent more than the “lost year” that was 2020.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “Following a £20.4 billion 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’. Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming.”

Find out the best cars coming out in 2021 here...

Recommended

Covid-19: what it means for motorists and the car industry
Motorway
News

Covid-19: what it means for motorists and the car industry

Everything you need to know about how Covid-19 affects cars, motorists and the car industry in the UK
23 Feb 2021
Scottish car buyers can enter showrooms under appointment system
Car dealership
News

Scottish car buyers can enter showrooms under appointment system

Scottish Government confirms dealers can allow customers into their showrooms to conclude the purchasing of a vehicle
23 Feb 2021
Can I buy a car during the Covid-19 lockdown?
lockdown dealer
Coronavirus

Can I buy a car during the Covid-19 lockdown?

National lockdowns in all four parts of UK keep car dealers closed, but here’s how you can still buy a new or used car
23 Feb 2021
Can I drive my car during the Covid-19 lockdown?
Speed limit to be cut to 60mph on M1
Tips & advice

Can I drive my car during the Covid-19 lockdown?

England is in lockdown for the third time, with the rest of the UK employing similarly drastic measures - what does this mean for drivers?
23 Feb 2021

Most Popular

New all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 arrives to take on Tesla
Ioniq 5 - front
Hyundai

New all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 arrives to take on Tesla

The new Ioniq 5 – the first model from Hyundai’s all-electric sub-brand – takes design influence from the 45 Concept and will be offered with two batt…
23 Feb 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI ‘Edition 45’ anniversary model leaked
Volkswagen Golf GTI 'Edition 45' - front
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

Volkswagen Golf GTI ‘Edition 45’ anniversary model leaked

The Volkswagen Golf GTI will soon get a new special edition model to celebrate its Sapphire anniversary
23 Feb 2021
New Dacia Sandero Stepway Bi-Fuel 2021 review
Dacia Sandero Stepway - front
Dacia Sandero Stepway

New Dacia Sandero Stepway Bi-Fuel 2021 review

At just under £11k, the new Dacia Sandero Stepway is one of the best value-for-money cars on the market
24 Feb 2021