New car market fell 29% in 2020 in 'lost' year for automotive

220119 Trust Ford Edgware. Generic shots

The UK new car market fell -29.4% to 1,631,064 units in 2020, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A -10.9% decline in December wrapped up a difficult 12 months, which saw demand fall by 680,076 units to the lowest level of registrations since 1992.

The market had been hit by the first lockdown which saw April sales fall 97%.

Private vehicle demand in 2020 fell by -26.6% and fleet registrations by -31.1%. The SMMT estimates that the industry saw a total turnover loss of £20.4bn.

Demand fell across all segments bar specialist sports, which grew by 7%, although Britain’s most popular class of car remained the supermini, retaining a 31.2% market share despite a -25.9% decline in registrations. Meanwhile, although falling by a combined -32.9%, petrol and mild hybrid (MHEV) petrol cars made up 62.7% of registrations, while diesel and MHEV diesels, down -47.6%, comprised almost a fifth (19.8%) of the market.

It was a strong year for battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars, which together accounted for more than one in 10 registrations – up from around one in 30 in 2019. Demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) grew by 185.9% to 108,205 units, while registrations of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) rose 91.2% to 66,877.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “2020 will be seen as a ‘lost year’ for automotive, with the sector under pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over future trading conditions taking their toll.

“However, with the rollout of vaccines and clarity over our new relationship with the EU, we must make 2021 a year of recovery. With manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months, we will work with government to encourage drivers to make the switch, while promoting investment in our globally-renowned manufacturing base – recharging the market, industry and economy.”

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