Michael Woodward, UK automotive lead, Deloitte, said:
“With the first 2020 registration plates released in March, the industry may have hoped for a bumper month for new car sales. However, COVID-19 pressures in the second half of the month have driven sales down by over 40%, leading to the lowest March sales for over two decades.
“Despite this, it is positive to see that alternatively fuelled vehicles continued their surge in the first half of the month, with battery electric vehicles in particular achieving five per cent market share.
“Like almost every other industry, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on UK automotive. Since the outbreak began, supply chains globally have been under increasing pressure and, following the UK’s current lockdown restrictions, dealerships have now closed their doors and manufacturers halted production.
“The safety of workers, dealers and consumers remains paramount, and a return to ‘business as usual’ unclear. As a result, everyone from manufacturers to dealers will be asking themselves how they can respond to demand when we emerge from the current situation. A number of dealers have already moved their interactions online, and the ability to support this will become imperative in the longer term.
“During this period of economic uncertainty, the industry is beginning to introduce flexible measures around payments to protect the interests of consumers. These include contract extensions, payment deferrals, interim loans and refinancing packages.
“In addition to supporting consumers, many across the automotive industry have also come together to serve the national interest; be it redirecting factory resources to support ventilator production or donating vehicles for the distribution of food and medical supplies. We should all be proud of the way the automotive industry have come together to meet this challenge head-on.”
Jon Lawes, Managing Director, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions said:
“March is typically a vibrant month for the car industry, marked by the introduction of the new number plates. However, today’s figures serve as a stark reminder of the economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to the industry and consumers alike.
“While there will be an unavoidable delay to new registrations, a number of orders will have been placed before lockdown measures were introduced, meaning that many are still being processed. This is something we’re seeing as a business, and although there’s an unavoidable delay in delivering vehicles, our focus is to ensure our existing customers feel supported in these uncertain times. We will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 closely, whilst working with partners and customers to offer flexible payment options to support those affected.”