UK May car sales collapse by 89% to 1952 levels as lockdown devastates industry

Author: Will Beacham


BARCELONA (ICIS)--UK new car sales collapsed by 89% year on year in May to levels not seen since 1952 as the coronavirus shutdowns and closure of most automotive production devastated the country’s market.

Figures published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers show that just 20, 247 vehicles were sold in May 2020 compared with 183,724 a year earlier.

The fleet business fared worst, falling by 93% whilst private sales dropped by 84%. Sales of all types of cars fell except for battery electric vehicles which grew by 21.5% to 2,424.

The Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle was the top-selling car in the UK in May 2020, demonstrating how quickly consumers are shifting away from conventional vehicles.

With the coronavirus lockdowns only kicking off in March in the UK, year-to-date figures look better. From January to May car sales fell by 51% to 508,125.

The society is pinning its hopes on a recovery as the lockdowns are eased and car showrooms reopen.

Mike Hawes, CEO of the trade group said: “After a second month of shutdown and the inevitable yet devastating impact on the market, this week’s re-opening of dealerships is a pivotal moment for the entire industry and the thousands of people whose jobs depend on it.”

Early reports from showrooms suggest good business is being done, but it is too early to tell how demand will change over the coming months, according to the group.

Hawes added: “Restarting this market is a crucial first step in driving the recovery of Britain’s critical car manufacturers and supply chain, and to supporting the wider economy.”

On 4 June Aston Martin said it would cut 500 jobs, a fifth of its workforce.

Used car sales are performing well since showrooms reopened on Monday, as people seek alternatives to public transport, reports the Financial Times.

In April, EU passenger car sales fell 76.3% year on year, the sharpest decline since records began.

Chemical supply chains feeding the automotive sector have been particularly badly hit by the virus. Key polymers used for the automotive sector include polypropylene, polyurethanes, and polyamides.

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