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Coronavirus: New UK car registrations fell 5% in August

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·2-min read
File photo dated 11/01/19 of Honda cars lined up at Southampton Docks. The number of new cars sold in the UK in March fell by 44% compared with last year, industry figures show.
New cards lined up at Southampton Docks. Photo: Reuters

Just 88,000 cars were registered in the UK in August, representing a 5% fall-off from the same month last year, according to preliminary data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Though the sector has been particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, August is traditionally a weak month for car sales, the SMMT noted.

Registrations of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles actually climbed in the month, however, following the release of several new models.

The overall decline in August follows an 11% surge in registrations in July, when car showrooms emerged from the country’s sweeping coronavirus lockdown.

The car industry has been among one of the worst-affected industries during the pandemic, and July was actually the first month to show growth in car registrations.

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New registrations had fallen by around 35% in June, by 44% in May, and by 86% in April, during the height of the lockdown.

At the same time, UK car production fell by almost 100% in April, with just 197 cars produced in the entire month.

That was the lowest monthly output since World War II, and an order of magnitude lower than the previous record low from January 1946, when 6,319 units were produced.

The SMMT has previously said that it expects the sector to produce fewer than one million vehicles in 2020, and estimates that the lost production will cost the sector up to £12.5bn ($16.7bn).

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That would be the lowest output for the sector in recent memory and below that of 2009, when the sector was severely dented by the financial crisis.

A survey conducted during the height of the lockdown suggested that the pandemic had made people in the UK more likely to buy a car once restrictions are lifted, however.

In April, online car marketplace Autotrader found that 56% of UK driving licence holders who didn’t then own a vehicle were considering purchasing one.

The survey also found that the pandemic had made almost half of people less likely to use public transport.