New car registrations rise for first time this year as pent-up demand helps lift market

New UK car registrations went up in July for the first time this year, latest figures show.

Registrations rose by 11.3% in July, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Some 174,887 cars were registered in July 2020 as dealerships across the UK opened for their first full month of trading since February.

This represents a significant improvement on the same month last year, when declining business and consumer confidence undermined the market.

Pent-up demand and special offers led to a reprieve for the sector, but overall registrations are still down by -41.9% or 598,054 units year-to-date.

Despite the increase in July, SMMT’s full year outlook is for a -30% decline in registrations, representing more than £20bn of lost sales.

Private demand saw the most significant growth with a 20.4% increase in registrations, primarily a result of consumers finally being able to renew their cars after lockdown had forced them to delay.

Business car registrations showed modest growth, with fleet purchases increasing by 5.2%.

However, more than 13,000 jobs have now been lost by UK automotive across retail and manufacturing as a result of the pandemic.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “July’s figures are positive, with a boost from demand pent up from earlier in the year and some attractive offers meaning there are some very good deals to be had. We must be cautious, however, as showrooms have only just fully reopened nationwide and there is still much uncertainty about the future.

“By the end of September we should have a clearer picture of whether or not this is a long-term trend. Although this month’s figures provide hope, the market remains fragile in the face of possible future spikes and localised lockdowns as well as, sadly, probable job losses across the economy. The next few weeks will be crucial in showing whether or not we are on the road to recovery.”