New Car Sales Up 11.5% in March, Q1 down -12.5%.
New car sales in March rose 11.5% to 283,964 units, the first rise since August 2020, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
However, the month represents the anniversary of the first lockdown in March 2020, when the pandemic hit, closing car showrooms and causing registrations to decline by -44.4%.
Compared with the 2010-2019 March average of 450,189, registrations were down -36.9%, with 283,964 units registered.
Year to date car sales fell -12% to 425,525 vehicles.
Click and collect provided a lifeline for the sector – made possible as carmakers and dealers invested in digital channels.
Overall, the SMMT estimates that dealers have lost £22.2bn in lost turnover since March 2020.
While overall registrations were slightly up compared to last year, growth came almost entirely from fleets, which saw a 28.7% increase in registrations.
Retail consumer demand remained depressed, falling by -4.1% compared to March 2020 as showrooms remained closed for the duration of the month.
The shift to new technologies is continuing, however, with plug-in vehicle demand reaching its highest ever volume.
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) took a combined market share of 13.9%, up from 7.3% last year as the number of models available to customers increased from 72 to 116.
Registrations of BEVs increased by 88.2% to 22,003 units, while PHEVs rose by 152.2% to 17,330. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) also rose 42.0% to reach 21,599 registrations.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard.
However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return.”