CAR sales in Britain took a significant step towards recovery in April as dealerships re-opened and buyers were once again able to view and test drive the latest models.
And even though the 30-fold increase of new car registrations compared to the same month last year was described as an ‘artificial' boost by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), it prompted the auto industry trade body to revise its sales forecast for 2021 upwards.
April's monthly total of 141,583 new car sales dwarfed that recorded in April 2020, when the first national lockdown effectively shut the country, and just 4,321 cars were sold - a mere 871 of them to private buyers.
Click and collect helped boost retail demand in the first part of the month ahead of showrooms reopening on April 12, but the total of 61,935 registrations was still 14.5 per cent down on the 10-year April average.
Overall new car registrations for 2021 now stand at 567,108 units, 32.5% down on the average recorded over the past decade. However, the SMMT says that the full impact of showrooms reopening has yet to be realised, given the delay between a customer initially visiting a dealership, deciding on a model and then taking delivery of that new vehicle is normally a number of weeks.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described the last 12 months as "one of the darkest years in automotive history" but said "there is light at the end of the tunnel".
He added: "A full recovery for the sector is still some way off, but with showrooms open and consumers able to test drive the latest, cleanest models, the industry can begin to rebuild."
As a result the SMMT now estimates that total sales in 2021 will increase by 13.9 per cent compared with 2020 to a total of 1.86 million - an increase on its original estimate of 1.83 million sales.
Top selling car in April was the Vauxhall Corsa, ahead of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Ford Fiesta. The Corsa was also the UK's top selling electric supermini.