|06 April, 2020

UK new car sales plunge 40% in March as coronavirus hits

March accounted for nearly 20% of total registrations in 2019

Image used for illustrative purpose. A sales agent in the Rockar Hyundai retail outlet in the Bluewater shopping mall, Bluewater, Britain, September 16, 2015.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A sales agent in the Rockar Hyundai retail outlet in the Bluewater shopping mall, Bluewater, Britain, September 16, 2015.

Reuters/Peter Nicholls

LONDON - New car registrations in Britain fell by an annual 40% in March as the coronavirus crisis hit the economy and forced many would-be buyers to stay at home, preliminary data from an industry group showed on Monday.

Sales totalled around 250,000 units, making it the weakest March -- typically one of the top two selling months of the year -- since 1999 when bi-annual plate changes were introduced.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a shutdown of much of the economy last month as his government sought to slow the spread of coronavirus.

March accounted for nearly 20% of total registrations in 2019 as it is one of two annual occasions when a new licence plate series is issued.

Car sales in Britain have been falling since hitting a record high in 2016. The SMMT's latest forecast, published in January, predicted a drop in full-year demand of just over 2.5% to 2.25 million cars.

The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders is due to publish its full data for March at 0800 GMT.

(Writing by William Schomberg and Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge) ((william.schomberg@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7778; Reuters Messaging: william.schomberg.reuters.com@reuters.net))

More From Business