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UK car sales below 2019 level despite surge from lockdown slump

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Parked cars are seen at the Vauxhall plant as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Ellesmere Port

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations rose by 674% in May compared to the same month last year when showrooms were closed during lockdowns but sales remained below 2019 levels, industry data showed on Friday.

Dealers reopened their doors to the public on April 12 in England this year but were shut throughout May in 2020.

Volumes stood at 156,737, boosted by business fleet demand, far higher than the 20,247 cars sold in May 2020 but still short of the 183,724 purchases made in 2019, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The industry has also been suffering from a lack of semi-conductor chips, forcing many manufacturers around the world to cut output in recent months.

"Increased business confidence is driving the recovery, something that needs to be maintained and translated in private consumer demand as the economy emerges from pandemic support measures," said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

The industry forecasts full-year sales of 1.86 million new cars.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Alistair Smout and Kate Holton)