New Car Market Update February 2021

Rob Donaldson | 18 Mar 2021

About the author

Rob Donaldson

UK Car Editor

Born in Acton, London, Robert worked for several blue-chip organisations including Compaq, British Airways and 3M. Of interest, Robert also owned a repair garage with his brother in the 90s with whom he restored Classic cars, before joining Glass’s in 2006.

With the UK in lockdown throughout February, it comes as no surprise to see another drop in new car registrations, with dealers having to rely on ‘click and collect’ and telephone transactions only. A total of 51,312 new cars were registered in February, down 35.5% from last year, according to data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Underlining how poor February’s total was, the SMMT reported it was the lowest for the month in 52 years.

February’s deficit was a slight improvement on January’s 39.5% reduction. However, that is little comfort on such a small volume, in what is usually the quietest month of the year for sales, as consumers await the new plate in March.

Plug-in vehicles continued their upward trajectory with Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEVs) taking a combined 13.0% market share for the month, up from just 5.7% in February 2020. BEV registrations increased by 40.2% to 3,516, and PHEVs by 52.1% to 3,131 as the motor industry continues to improve the choice and supply for consumers.

The contraction in registrations in February was more severe in the retail sector, down 37.3%, while fleet volume was down 33.5%. The fast disappearing business sector fell 56.6% to just 637 units. Over the first two months, the retraction in volume has been even across both private and fleet as shown in the chart below.

Sector Split YTD February 2021

On 22 February, The Prime Minister outlined a roadmap for easing restrictions in England, with non-essential retail, including car showrooms, able to reopen no earlier than 12 April. In Scotland, this is expected from the last week of April. A review of restrictions in Wales conducted on 12 March was expected to announce that non-essential retail would be able to reopen as soon as 15 March, however, although some restrictions were relaxed, non-essential retail will remain close until 12 April. A timetable for easing restrictions in Northern Ireland has not been announced, although a review is planned for 16 March.

Glass’s expects another poor set of results for March 2021, which is usually the busiest month of the year. We may not see a huge percentage drop versus last year as March 2020 heralded the start of the first national lockdown, with dealerships closing towards the end of the month, which impacted registrations.

From April, as the economy opens back up, there is an expectation that we will see pent-up private consumer demand released, together with an uptick in fleet activity as many extended lease contracts end. This will provide a significant boost to registrations for the second quarter, kickstarting dealers 2021 new car campaigns.

You might be also interested in

January 2021: New car registrations

10 Feb 2021

With Lockdown-3 in full force dampening the spread of COVID-19, inevitably January new car registrations suffered. Although retailers have created ‘click and collect’ processes to...

New Car Market Update December 2020

13 Jan 2021

New car registrations fell by 10.9% in December 2020, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), marking the eleventh...

New Car Market Update October 2020

13 Nov 2020

Following September, new car registrations in October had a relatively low bar to clear to eclipse last year’s total, due to the WLTP emissions testing...

Yes, sign me up to Autovista24

* Mandatory

Sign up to receive the following email:
Autovista24: Essential automotive reading, data and intelligence – a daily update from the new Autovista24 website sent daily by Autovista Ltd, in English

We use pixels in our emails to monitor whenever you open, forward or click on the URLs in our emails. This helps us to monitor and measure the performance and effectiveness of our emails. We combine this with the information you provide above and your browsing information so that we can better tailor and improve our marketing to you and personalise your user experience on our website. By signing up, you are consenting to the use of your data for the purpose of sending you the selected emails and to the use of tracking pixels. You can withdraw your consent to receive our emails and the related tracking at any time by following this link to our Email Preference Centre and updating your preferences. For additional information on the processing of your personal data, please refer to the Autovista Group Privacy Policy and the Glass's Privacy Policy.