THE full extent of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on Britain's auto industry has been laid bare by the latest new car sales figures which show a record drop of 97.3 per cent in vehicle registrations in April.
With car showrooms closed the data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal that just 4,321 models were registered in the month, 156,743 fewer than in April 2019.
Most of the deliveries which took place in April went to frontline workers and organisations, says the SMMT.
The industry body said the decline was the steepest of modern times and is in line with similar falls across Europe, with France 88.8 per cent down and the Italian market falling by 97.5 per cent in April.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive,said:"With the UK's showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market's worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising.
"These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.
"A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard.
"Safely restarting this most critical sector and revitalising what will, inevitably, be subdued demand will be key to unlocking manufacturing and accelerating the UK's economic regeneration."
Fleet orders represented by far the bulk of the market, taking 71.5 per cent market share, equivalent to 3,090 units, while private buyers registered just 871 cars - a year on year fall of 98.7per cent.
The distortion was reflected across all segments and fuel types, with the numbers of new petrol and diesel cars joining UK roads down 98.5 per cent and 97.6 per cent respectively, as plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) declined 95.1 per cent and hybrids (HEVs) were down 99.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, the niche battery electric vehicles sector saw a smaller percentage decrease of 9.7 as some pre-ordered deliveries of the latest premium models were able to be fulfilled.
The auto industry has continued to keep service and repair workshops open to maintain vehicles that are so crucial in keeping key services, goods and people moving safely across the country.
The SMMT has now revised its estimates for the year and expects 1.68 million new car registrations this year, the lowest since 1992.
The top selling models in April were both electric vehicles with the Tesla Model 3 topping the list with 658 sales followed by the Jaguar I-PACE which notched up 367 deliveries. Third was the new Vauxhall Corsa which secured 264 sales.