Figures published by SMMT this week showed that the UK new car market fell by -97.3% in April, the worst performance since just after WW2 when rationing was still in effect and the country was in the process of rebuilding itself. Whilst these figures are extremely concerning, they are hardly surprising, given that showrooms were closed for the entire month and car buyers left housebound.
There were 4,321 new cars registered in total, which is some 156,743 fewer than in April 2019. A glimmer of good news was that many of these new cars were delivered to key workers as well as front line public services and companies, reaffirming the sector’s importance in the national fight against coronavirus.
More worrying is SMMT’s latest new car market forecast for 2020 which has seen a downgrade on previous expectations to just 1.68 million registrations. This would represent the worst year of new car sales since 1992 and below the levels recorded during the 2008 financial crisis.
A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and, as Britain starts to plan for its recovery, we need to be in the vanguard. Hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods are dependent on the automotive industry and, as manufacturing begins to resume, the call for a safe return to work for retailers grows stronger. Getting the market moving again will not be easy and some form of stimulus may be required to encourage consumers back into showrooms. But 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.
SMMT is firmly engaged across government departments to get this message across and also on how to create safe working conditions to enable companies to get back to work. At the same time, we are continuing to work with members and other stakeholders to produce specific industry guidance and best practice covering automotive manufacturing, retail and aftermarket.
Getting back to work will be the hot topic at next week’s SMMT Covid-19 response webinar on Tuesday 12 May from 15:00-16:00, featuring guests from Grant Thornton LLP. You can sign up for it here and, in the meantime, I hope you stay safe and well and that you have a good bank holiday weekend.