UK used car sales halve to 1 million as coronavirus hits Q2 demand

11 August 2020 #SMMT News
  • UK used car market plunges -48.9% in second quarter to just over 1 million transactions as coronavirus lockdown impacts the market.
  • Pace of decline gradually eases throughout the quarter as dealers re-open in line with government rules and private market gets back on the move.
  • Year-to-date sales down -28.7%, with 85% of 2020 losses so far recorded in Q2.

Download the used car sales report for Q2 2020

The UK’s used car market declined by -48.9% in the second quarter of 2020 with just 1,039,303 units changing hands, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The decline followed a bumper January and February, with growth going into reverse as coronavirus lockdown swept the UK.

The pace of decline eased as the quarter progressed, from a peak year on year loss of -74.2% in April to -17.5% in June, as private sellers and buyers got back on the move and transactions began to restart. However, it is unclear how long it will take for the market to recover given economic uncertainties and a need for greater activity in the new market to drive fresh stock.

Demand for pre-owned battery electric vehicles, which grew by 44.8% in the first quarter of 2020, declined in the second quarter, falling by -29.7% to 2,288 units, although their market share remained stable at 0.2%. At the same time, sales of plug-in hybrids dropped -56.3%, with just 3,249 changing hands. Meanwhile, petrol and diesel car transactions decreased by -49.2% and -48.5% respectively, although combined they still accounted for 98.3% of sales in the quarter, equivalent to 1,021,963 units.

Despite a fall of -52.4%, superminis remained the most popular used buy with 316,570 finding new owners in Q2, representing 30.5% of the market. All segments saw a decline with luxury saloons faring best with a slightly more modest -30.4% decrease. Black remained the most popular colour choice with 227,660 units sold, closely followed by silver/aluminium, blue, grey and white.

In the first six months of 2020, used car transactions were down by -28.7%, with 2.89 million units changing hands. The second quarter represented more than 85% of the 1.16 million lost sales so far this year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

As devastating as these figures are, with full lockdown measures in place for the whole of April and May, they are not surprising. As the UK starts to get back on the move again and dealerships continue to re-open, we expect to see more activity return to the market, particularly as many people see cars as a safe and reliable way to travel during the pandemic. However, if we’re to re-energise sales and the fleet renewal needed to drive environmental gains, support will be needed for the broader economy in order to bolster business and consumer confidence.

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