The auto trade had its worst February by way of gross sales since 1959, as UK dealerships remained closed as a result of nationwide lockdowns.
UK customers purchased simply 51,300 automobiles within the month, down 35.5% year-over-year, in response to the Society of Motor Producers and Merchants (SMMT).
The foyer group additionally reduce its 2021 new automobile gross sales forecast from 60,000 to 1.83 million autos, because the outlook for March deteriorated.
Low gross sales added to a irritating week for the trade. Together with a continued freeze on gasoline rights, the sector was ignored by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in Wednesday’s price range, as different questions had been raised over the way forward for the Ellesmere Port plant in Vauxhall by the CEO of the mum or dad firm, Stellantis.
The one vibrant spot amid the winter gloom was the rising proportion of electrified autos bought in February, with electrical and plug-in hybrid batteries accounting for 13% of complete new automobile gross sales.
The short-term outlook for the UK auto trade stays bleak, with dealerships more likely to shut in March. Usually an important month within the trade, March accounts for one-fifth of annual gross sales when license plates are up to date.
Mike Hawes, managing director of SMMT, stated February’s figures had been deeply disappointing however anticipated, provided that dealerships had been closed all through the month.
Nevertheless, he was additionally involved in regards to the prospect of a ‘successive and dismal’ third ‘new plate month’ after lockdowns and restrictions in March and September 2020.
“Whereas now we have a approach out of the restrictions with speedy vaccine roll-out and a confirmed observe file in working click on and gather, it’s important that showrooms reopen as quickly as attainable in order that the trade can start. to higher rebuild and recoup the lack of £ 23 billion. final 12 months, ”Hawes stated.
A resumption in gross sales could come too late for staff at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Carlos Tavares, who took over Stellantis after it was fashioned following the Peugeot-Fiat Chrysler merger, on Wednesday reiterated warnings that the plant would shut with out a monetary dedication from the UK authorities.
Tavares stated the corporate had already accomplished plans for brand new fashions to exchange the Vauxhall Astra on the manufacturing facility in a “multi-energy mission,” which is almost certainly a reference to the manufacturing of hybrid and electrical automobiles. Nevertheless, the federal government’s 2030 ban on promoting new gasoline and diesel-only automobiles compelled a fast rethink, he stated.
Stellantis has already invested within the manufacturing of electrical autos elsewhere, so it didn’t make sense to spend on “double sourcing” until it was “supported within the funding by the UK authorities,” Tavares added.
Discussions with the federal government on the help it’s ready to provide have continued. Insiders initially stated a choice was due final week.
Tavares stated the Brexit commerce deal, which was solely confirmed on Christmas Eve, had counted in opposition to the survival prospects of the Vauxhall plant.
Business insiders had been virtually unanimous of their perception that a number of UK auto factories would have been compelled to shut if no deal had been reached with the EU and tariffs had been imposed. Nevertheless, with duty-free commerce, Stellantis can simply proceed to serve the UK market from factories within the EU, Tavares stated.