hawes mike 400

New car registrations have risen by 11.5% in March, equalling 29,280 more vehicles, compared to the same period in 2020 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This marks the first time since August 2020 that new car registrations had grown in the UK. However, automotive insight provider Autovista explained that this is likely to be a reflection of when the pandemic first began impacting sales in the UK as frozen markets have “wildly distorted year-on-year figures”.

Mike Hawes (pictured above), chief executive of the SMMT, explained: “The past year has been the toughest in modern history, and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard. However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return.”

Additional data from the SMMT included:

  • March registrations (283,964 units) down 36.9% compared with 2010-2019 March average of 450,189;
  • Year-to-date registrations down by 58,032 units equating to a loss of £1.8 billion;
  • Battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEV) took a combined market share of 13.9%, up 7.3% from last year;
  • Registrations of BEVs increased by 88.2% to 22,003 units, while PHEVs rose by 152.2% to 17,330;
  • Hybrid electric vehicles grew by 42%, reaching 21,599 registrations;
  • With 30,730 registrations, diesel’s market share shrank to 10.8% from 17.6% in March 2020;
  • Petrol kept its majority share of the market with 137,557 new units registered, down to 48.4% from 60% in March 2020.

Consumer car finance down 27%

Alongside the SMMT’s figurework, the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) revealed that the number of consumer cars financed in February had fallen by 27% to 123,125, compared to the same period in 2020.

Breaking this figure down, the number of new consumer cars financed fell by 34% to 29,252. In comparison, the number of used consumer cars financed fell by 25% to 93,873.

Cars bought on finance by consumers through the point of sale

New businessFeb 2021change on prev. year12 months to Feb 2021change on prev. year
New cars

Value of advances (£m) 

659  -27 14,869 -24
Number of cars  29,252  -34 659,809 -28
Used cars

Value of advances (£m) 

1,243  -23 15,228 -18
Number of cars  93,873  -25 1,161,932 -22
Total cars

Value of advances (£m) 

1,902  -24 30,097 -21
Number of cars  123,125  -27 1,821,741 -25

Geraldine Kilkelly, director of research and chief economist at the FLA, said: “The UK lockdown restrictions over the winter months contributed to a fall in consumer car finance new business volumes of just over a quarter. As car showrooms re-open and consumer confidence recovers, we expect a strong rebound in demand. The value of annual new business in the consumer car finance market is expected to reach its pre-pandemic level this year.”

Cars bought on finance by businesses

New businessFeb 2021% change on prev. year12 months to Feb 2021% change on prev. year
New cars
Number of cars  16,036  -24 253,688 -40
Used cars
Number of cars  3,396  -5 55,477 1

Additional data from the FLA shows that the UK asset finance market has achieved growth for the first time in more than a year. It hit £2.2 billion in February, marking a 1% rise on the previous year and a key milestone in the economic recovery following the pandemic.

To find out more about how the UK asset finance market is faring in the first quarter of 2021, click here: https://assetfinanceinternational.com/index.php/equipment-finance/news-emea/emea-articles/20131-asset-finance-grows-for-first-time-in-a-year-reaching-26-billion-in-february

German registrations up 36%

In comparison, the German auto market is faring even better than the UK, with new car registrations up 35.9% in March according to figurework from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).

These figures are similarly inflated due to the initial lockdowns in 2020 and the following dealership closures. However, the German market performed well last year, only suffering losses of 37.7% compared to Italy’s 85.4%.

At the end of the first quarter, new registrations totalled 656,452 units, down 6.4% compared to the same period in 2020 despite dealerships being closed.

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