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Car industry predicts £21.2bn hit after ‘weakest’ September for new car sales

Written by on 5 October 2020

The UK car industry is predicting a GBP21.2bn hit from lost sales this year as it reports its weakest September sales for new vehicles on record.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said demand for the new issue plates, which usually drive a spike in business during the month, remained muted as the industry faced down a “myriad” of challenges – chiefly the fightback from the COVID-19 lockdown.

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It reported a record low for new registrations since the creation of the dual plate system in 1999 with 328,041 new 70 plate cars sold.

That represented a fall of 4.4% on the same month in 2019 and left sales in the year to date a third lower than during the first nine months of last year.

One bright spark to emerge in last month’s figures for the industry was a leap sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The SMMT reported year-on-year growth in September of 184.3% and 138.6% respectively – crediting new models at a time when the government is moving to curb the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to help fight climate change.

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However, almost 22,000 pure electric vehicles were sold compared to 46,000 diesels.

The SMMT forecast that total sales were on track to fall by 30.6% this year – more than GBP21bn – amid continued consumer caution over the direction of the pandemic and Brexit.

Its chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “During a torrid year, the automotive industry has demonstrated incredible resilience, but this is not a recovery.

“Despite the boost of a new registration plate, new model introductions and attractive offers, this is still the poorest September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999.

“Unless the pandemic is controlled and economy-wide consumer and business confidence rebuilt, the short-term future looks very challenging indeed.”