Annual new car registrations dropped by 680,076 units, or 29.4 percent, to just 1,631,064 units, the lowest level of registrations since 1992, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on Wednesday.
— SMMT (@SMMT) January 6, 2021
In 2020, the industry suffered a total turnover loss of some £20.4 billion ($27.7 billion). Private vehicle demand fell by 26.6 percent, which led to a £1.9 billion ($2.6 billion) loss of VAT revenues to the UK Treasury.
SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said that 2020 will be seen as a “lost year” for the automotive industry, which suffered from pandemic-enforced shutdown for much of the year and uncertainty over post-Brexit trading conditions.
But he said 2021 could be “a year of recovery” with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and the last-minute UK-EU free trade agreement, which was reached on Christmas Eve and came into force on Jan. 1 as the UK exited the EU’s single market and customs union.
The SMMT welcomed the Brexit trade deal, saying a “no deal” scenario would have been catastrophic to the car industry, as seven out of 10 new cars registered in the UK in 2020 were imported from the European Union.
The UK car market was hit hard by the closure of showrooms as part of the national lockdowns imposed during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, and the new lockdown measures, intended to stem the spread of the new CCP virus variant, will “further impact the industry,” the SMMT said.
The UK government is pinning its hopes of ending the pandemic to the roll-out of vaccines. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday afternoon, he said, over 1.1 million people in England and over 1.3 million across the UK had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 jabs.
But the SMMT said 2020 was “a bumper year” for battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars, which together accounted for more than one in 10 registrations, up from around one in 30 in 2019.
The UK government said last November it will ban sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and vans from 2030, as part of its efforts to cut carbon emissions.
“With manufacturers bringing record numbers of electrified vehicles to market over the coming months, we will work with government to encourage drivers to make the switch,” Hawes said.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.