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Published on May 7th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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British domestic car sales plunged 97% in April 2020

The other big car markets in Europe has also been hit hard.

British new car registrations have dropped drastically by a record 97.3 per cent from a year earlier to 4,321 units in April 2020, the lowest level since February 1946 just a few months after the end of World War Two, as the coronavirus pandemic forced United Kingdom into lockdown for the entire month. 

Fleet car buyers in the United Kingdom (UK) represented by far the bulk of the buying market, taking 71.5 per cent market share, equivalent to 3,090 units, while private buyers registered just 871 cars. 

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The distortion was reflected across all segments and fuel types, with the numbers of new petrol and diesel cars joining UK roads down 98.5 per cent and 97.6 percent respectively, as plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) declined 95.1 per cent and hybrids (HEVs) 99.3 per cent. The SMMT further downgraded its full-year forecast to 1.68 million registrationscompared with last year’s total of 2.31 million cars, which would be the worst performance since 1992 and below the levels seen during the financial crisis.

Poor sales in UK are similar to those in Italy, Germany, France and Spain, which have also been hit by dealership and factory closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2018 BMW M5 rear

Italy, which went into lockdown first, suffered the biggest drop in car sales: 85 per cent in March and a plunging 97 per cent in April. That suggests that the damage to the European car industry could be even more severe in April, depending on how quickly lockdowns ease. France took a severe 89 percent drop in sales for April. 

The German new car market declined by 61.1% from last year to stand at 120,840 units during the month of April. The result shows a much smaller percentage drop than other large European markets. 

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA

On May 4, the automobile manufacturers association of Spain (ANFAC) announced that passenger car registrations of 4,163 units in April 2020 represented a drop of 96.5 per cent over total sales a year before in April 2019.

Demand in France fell by 88 per cent in April which was not as severe as the drop in car sales in Spain, Italy and the UK. 

The collapse in car sales puts more pressure on the UK economy, which is on course for an unprecedented quarterly contraction of at least 7 per cent, a survey showed on Tuesday, as the coronavirus staggers any form of activity.

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Lockdown measures have been in place across Europe since mid-March to contain the pandemic, shutting many companies which are now slowly opening back up and re-starting operations. 

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