A car transporter, loaded with new Honda vehicles, is driven out of the Honda plant in Swindon, southwest England. Agence France-Presse
New car sales in Britain dived 44 per cent last month as the country’s lockdown triggered by the coronavirus outbreak shut show rooms, industry data showed on Monday.
It comes as UK-based research group, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), estimated that Britain’s lockdown was costing its economy more that £2.4 billion ($2.9 billion, 2.7 billion euros) per day in lost output across all main sectors. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders meanwhile said that UK car sales suffered the worst March since the late 1990s.
“In the important plate change month, 203,370 fewer cars were registered than in March 2019, as showrooms closed in line with government advice to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” the SMMT said in a statement.
“The performance represented a steeper fall than during the 2009 financial crisis,” it added.
Sales are normally boosted by the twice-a-year number plate change that occurs in March and September.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the data represented “a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt”. It comes as the CEBR said Britain’s “lockdown is leading to a reduction in economic output of 31 per cent”.
Total output stands at around £5.35 billion per day, down from almost £7.8 billion before implementation of the tougher restrictions two weeks ago. “The manufacturing sector is set to see the highest fall in output in absolute terms, as workers producing goods and services that are not deemed to be essential cannot do so remotely − and because export demand and sometimes domestic demand have fallen sharply,” the CEBR said in a report.