BRITAIN'S car dealers suffered a disastrous month in February but will be hoping for a bumper March with the arrival of the new 21 registration plate.
February is always a quiet month for new car sales but, with showrooms closed, last month was the worst February for new car sales in more than 60 years with just over 51,300 new cars registered. Only February 1959 was worse when 41,471 new models were registered.
With 28,282fewer units registered compared with February 2020, the figure represented a drop of 35.5 per cent according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Demand plummeted in both the private and fleet sectors and all vehicle segments saw declines save for luxury saloons, which recorded a 3.8 per centincrease against a statistically very small proportion of the market.
In spite of the overall drop in sales, take up of electrified vehicles continued to grow, with battery electric and plug-in hybrid models taking a combined 13 per cent share of themarket compared with just 5.7 per cent in February last year.
Top selling car in February was the Ford Fiesta ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa and Nissan Qashqai. So far this year, however, the recently launched new Corsa has outstripped the Fiesta in the sales charts.
According to the SMMT, while online orders and click and collect can provide a lifeline, showroom closures mean dealerships will find it significantly more challenging to fill order banks with £23 billion worth of fewer registrations since March 2020.
Says the organisation's chief executive Mike Hawes: "February is traditionally a small month for car registrationsandwith showrooms closed for the duration, thedecline is deeply disappointing but expected.
"More concerning, however, is that these closureshave stifled dealers' preparations for March with the expectation that this will now be a thirdsuccessive dismal ‘new plate month'. Although we have a pathway out of restrictions with rapid vaccine rollout,and proven experience in operating click and collect, it is essential that showrooms reopen as soon as possible so the industry canstartto build backbetter andrecover the £23 billion lossfromthe past year."