Car sales in Britain have crashed 44% to their lowest in a generation.
Despite the introduction of the new 20-plate, registrations were effectively wiped out from the middle of March onwards after the UK Government ordered the shutdown in non-essential businesses for an unspecified period.
Those dealers who secured advance orders and were able to deliver cars did better than their rivals and in a remarkable turnaround, MG sales soared over 50%, Alpine went up 18% and Porsche enjoyed a near 13% rise in the month.
The British drop is worse than a 38% drop in Germany but not as bad as Spain which dipped 69%, while France was hit by a 72% slump or Italy which has collapsed sales down 85%.
Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rose almost three-fold in the month to 11,694 units, accounting for 4.6% of the market, while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) grew 38.0%. Uptake of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), however, fell -7.1%.
The French-centred PSA Group is seeking over €3Billion new loans on top of a similar amount it secured when the crisis emerged in China, where it has assembly plants. Production in China is slowly returning but world markets are not buying due to lockdown restrictions.
From this week until 5th April 2021, businesses choosing electric company cars under £40,000 will not pay any benefit-in-kind (BiK) tax, and just one per cent in 2021/22, in a bid to accelerate mainstream electrification.
Kevin Brundish, CEO of electric vehicle battery manufacturer AMTE Power observes that although the tax break will have a direct correlation in meeting climate change goals, to sustain this progress, the manufacturing sector must be supported to service the demand for lithium-ion batteries. Kevin recognises that recent unforeseen factors, such as COVID-19, have highlighted the industry’s over-reliance on overseas manufacturers and the need for a self-sufficient UK manufacturing industry.
Kevin went on,“Whilst the company car tax reward will be pivotal in the fight against climate change, more government action is needed to realise the benefits, and this lies in further infrastructure investment. The UK has the knowledge and battery technology at home, but will need the equivalent of a staggering eight 15GWh gigafactories by 2040 if the country is to meet its Road to Zero targets.
“The number of Battery Electric Vehicles registrations (BEVs) grew by 243.1 per cent this year compared to last, and this figure is only set to rise. In response, the UK government should continue to invest in the country’s capabilities and prioritise an on-shore full-cycle supply chain, instead of relying on costly exports from large-scale manufacturers abroad.”
He concluded, “As the economy tries to stabilise itself after the disruption caused by the coronavirus, the creation of a more robust UK supply chain will allow manufacturers to keep pace with the expansion of this market and in turn develop more low carbon jobs of the future.”
Seán Kemple, Director of Sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, added, “March’s registration figures are a tale of two cities. In the first half of the month we see the impact of the new ’20 UK license plates in an environment of heightened consumer confidence and dealer optimism – March usually drives sales in H1. In the second half though we see the effects of Covid-19 and the UK lockdown on the motor industry.
“There’s no doubt we’re in an entirely new landscape for dealers and consumers alike. Currently we’re seeing trends sustain in terms of popular vehicle makes and models, but with dealerships having to close their doors to protect their staff and prospective buyers, the future is unclear.
“Manufacturers, dealers, and lenders need to work in tandem to support the industry and the national effort; we’re already hearing good news stories of manufacturers producing essential medical equipment and fleets being used to transport key workers. Until we have more certainty for the future, education and communication around the current circumstances are vital – taking advantage of government support and adjusting to new ways of working are the first steps in the journey.”