New car sales to jump – but post-lockdown boom ‘unlikely’

  06 April 2021

March 2021 new car registrations are set to be up 10% despite retailers remaining closed. The forecast for 280k sales is “testament to dealers rapidly embracing online sales and click-and-collect delivery of cars” reports The Times.

Even so, the market will be down by half from the March 2017 high point of 562k registrations. The paper blames anti-diesel sentiment from the decline with sales running at one-eighth of 2017 where nearly 1 in 2 car sales were diesel. Electrified cars are forecast to soon overtake diesel’s share of the market.

Such a strong performance during lockdown means some say expectations of a boom in sales when restrictions ease from 12 April is unlikely – because retailers have already been performing so strongly. Vertu’s Robert Forrester told Autocar the firm is “already operating at between 70% and 90% of normal sales”. There is still some pent-up demand “but nothing like the same uplift as we experienced after the first lockdown”.

Mr Forrester said auto retail has embraced technology but “that’s not to say everyone is now buying purely online. That’s still a very small market”. Of Vertu’s 3,000 weekly sales, only around 70 are pure online sales.

New Vauxhall MD Paul Willcox confirmed expectations of a blended approach in the future, with far more done online, but customers ultimately still wanting to deal with people and see, touch and test drive vehicles. “Our retailer network will continue to have a very valuable role in the future.”

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