New car registrations fell to their lowest level in 62 years in February, industry figures confirmed this morning.
Last month, a total of only 51,312 new models were purchased. This is the lowest since 1959 – the year the original Mini went on sale.
The month was a 36 percent year-over-year drop in vehicle registrations, with February 2020 being the last month of last year hit by coronavirus restrictions.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the decline was “deeply disappointing but expected”.
Worst February for car sales in 62 years: just over 51,000 new models were registered last month. This is the lowest level since 1959 – when the original Mini first hit the market (inset).
The figures show that 28,282 new cars were registered last month, compared to February a year ago.
As amazing as the numbers look, the sales results aren’t surprising.
Auto showrooms have been closed nationwide since January 5 as part of the latest lockdown measures, putting a significant strain on car dealers.
While dealerships are still able to sell vehicles online and complete transactions with click-and-collect handovers, demand in both the private and fleet sectors declined 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
The figures show that 28,282 new cars were registered last month, compared to February a year ago
Alec Issigonis, the designer of the Mini, came up with the first production model in 1959. Auto sales fell to their lowest level since this year in February, according to SMMT statistics
The only light in the statistics released on Thursday is the continued growth of electric vehicles.
Sales of all-electric cars – referred to in the report as battery electric vehicles – rose 40 percent to a total of 3,516 units.
Plug-in hybrid registrations also rose 52 percent, with 3,131 purchases last month.
However, the increasing introduction of these new technologies to the level required by 2030 remains a “mammoth task,” warned the trade authority – especially because no new measures or support measures for the industry to accelerate the transition from new gasoline and diesel cars were presented in yesterday’s budget vans, the sale of which will be banned from 2030.
Mike Hawes, general manager of SMMT, said February was “traditionally a small month for license plates,” and with showrooms being closed for long, the decline was not a shock.
However, Hawes is more concerned that the prolonged dealership closings through March will stifle the sector’s recovery.
Traditionally, around every fifth new engine bought every year is bought in March, as a new registration number is received that month – the registration number “21”.
Unsurprisingly, showrooms were closed for all of February and private auto sales shrank by more than a third
March is traditionally the most lucrative month for traders. Shoppers flock to showrooms to get their hands on models with the latest license plates. Every fifth new model bought each year is bought in March, although sales will be stifled in 2021
Industry commentators say the forced showroom shutdown by April 12th for the fourth month could lead to a sales boom due to pent-up demand in March, which is usually the most popular time to buy a new car
With dealers being forced to keep their doors locked to customers until April 12, registrations in March 2021 are expected to be far lower than industry insiders would have hoped if shoppers could enter a showroom.
With forecast lower sales in March, SMMT announced that it has revised its market outlook from 1.89 million in January to 1.83 million new registrations in 2021. Most of these losses are expected to occur in March.
After expressing expectations for a slower February than 2020, Hawes said: “More worryingly, these closings have stifled dealers’ preparations for March, with the expectation that this is now a third bleak new record month in a row will be.”
‘While we have a way out of the restrictions with the rapid adoption of vaccines and the proven experience of operating Click and Collect, it is important that the showrooms reopen as soon as possible in order for the industry to better rebuild and reduce the loss can make up for 23 billion pounds from last year. ‘
Sue Robinson, executive director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, says retailers will continue to be buoyant around 2021 despite a slower March
Sue Robinson, executive director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) said retailers remained buoyant despite a slower March.
“Looking ahead to the future, dealers are optimistic with the showrooms reopening soon and significant pent-up demand,” she said.
“The month of record changes will be an incentive for consumers and demand has increased significantly. This is based on industry data suggesting that many car buyers are waiting for dealers to reopen to complete their purchases.”
Michael Woodward, UK automotive leader at Deloitte, echoed the NFDA’s optimism when he commented on February sales.
He said: “The showrooms are slated to reopen on April 12, albeit with social distancing measures. The combination of pent-up demand and a clearer roadmap outside of lockdown has boosted consumer confidence. We expect a significant increase in sales as soon as the doors of the showroom are reopened and dealers and manufacturers are faced with managing demand.
“Much of the pent-up demand will be due to the demand for new plates, which can usually be seen in March. While this will have a positive impact on April sales, the loss of sales in March could have an impact on cash flow and planning for the industry. ‘
Ford sells on the February 1-2-3 sales charts (but not all cars are)
The Ford Fiesta (picture) was the best-selling new car in February, but is still behind the Vauxhall Corsa in the overall ranking of the year to date
Ford’s Transit and Transit Connect were the top-selling vehicles in February, official figures confirmed
In terms of model sales in February, Ford’s Fiesta has reclaimed its title as the country’s most popular new car. 1,645 vehicles were purchased last month.
It beat the Vauxhall Corsa marginally, though its supermini rival remains the best-seller for 2021 for the first two months.
Third on the list was the Sunderland-built Nissan Qashqai. In February, the Japanese brand unveiled the latest third generation SUV, which would have prompted dealers to cut prices on the current model to make way for the 2021 vehicle.
While the Fiesta topped the charts in the car rating, it was oversold by two other Fords that month.
In February, more examples of the Ford Transit (2,699) and Transit Custom (1,979) vans were registered than the Supermini.
Those motorists who want to buy a car this month can read our story of the 12 popular models with the best discounts offered so far in 2021.
The current Mini did not make it into the top 10 most frequently registered models in February.
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