CEO Update

Market confidence can drive a recovery

07 May 2021 #CEO Update

After one of the darkest years in automotive history, there is light at the end of the tunnel. April new car registration figures out this week showed 141,583 cars were registered, a dramatic 30-fold rise on 2020 when the country was completely locked down, highlighting the importance of showrooms being open to drive public demand.

However, whilst this does show that a recovery is possible, April sales remain -12.9% lower than the 10-year average. A full revival 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.

Crucial to April’s uptake in sales has been an improvement in market confidence, and we now expect to finish the year with around 1.86 million new cars registered, up from a 1.83 million forecast made in February 2021. This is largely thanks to the more upbeat business and consumer confidence created by the successful vaccine rollout, but the figure will still be some -20.2% down on the average of 2.33 million registrations a year recorded between 2010 and 2019.

The news comes as the UK hit a new motoring milestone this week with plug-in vehicles now accounting for more than 500,000 cars on our roads. This is good news indeed, to go with a record April for the LCV market which saw 30,440 new vans joining British roads, but to encourage more to make the switch to a plug-in vehicle still requires support: incentives that tempt consumers, infrastructure that is robust and more charging points in residential areas not just on strategic roads.

Finally, as the UK continues to exit from Covid restrictions we are looking forward to welcoming guests to SMMT’s hybrid International Automotive Summit (IAS) 2021. We hope that this will be, at least, a hybrid event but we await Government guidance on social distancing expected next month.

Thierry Bolloré, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover and Michael Cole, President and Chief Executive, Hyundai Motor Europe will deliver keynote speeches and I’m delighted to announce that Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng, Chair, Enginuity Group, Ruth Nic Aoidh, Executive Director – Purchasing, Commercial, Legal and Government Affairs, McLaren Automotive and Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union, will also be joining us.

This year’s agenda will address key areas of transformation affecting the industry including emerging trading arrangements with Europe, business opportunities presented by the electrification of vehicles, future skills requirements, and the digitalisation of the supply chain.

For information on tickets, sponsorship opportunities and to register, please contact our events team by email at

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