Lowest February UK new car sales since 1959

Cars travelling from Germany to Switzerland line up in front of a checkpoint after the re-opening of the borders, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rheinfelden, Germany

British new car registrations fell by an annual 35.5% last month to their lowest February level since 1959 as lockdown measures kept dealerships closed to the public, an industry body said on Thursday.

Volumes stood at 51,312 cars, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Car showrooms have been forced to close their doors to the public alongside other non-essential retail outlets, although many dealers are using online, delivery and click and collect services to continue to operate.

Whilst February is a relatively low selling month, showrooms are set to remain shut in England in March, which accounts for around 20% of annual registrations as it is one of two occasions when the licence plate series changes.

“These closures have stifled dealers’ preparations for March with the expectation that this will now be a third, successive dismal ‘new plate month’,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

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