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Exclusive: UK's 2020 new car sales forecast downgraded again by SMMT

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes

The forecast for the UK new car market has been revised downwards again by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as the government continues to ignore calls for stimulus measures specific to the automotive sector.

The latest quarterly forecast by the SMMT now predicts just 1,603,000 new cars will be registered in 2020; that's another 84,000 fewer cars than its April forecast published in the depths of the UK's 10-week lockdown from COVID-19.

Based on surveys of carmakers in the SMMT, the forecast reveals a 700,000 unit hole in new car supply and demand - a 30% year-on-year slump.

Prior to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic this year's new car sales were expected to be around 2.3 million registrations.

Van sales are also predicted to be hit hard, but not quite as badly as first expected.

Its light commercial vehicle (LCV) full year forecast is now 269,000 units, a 26.3% fall from the 2019 van market, but in April the SMMT had forecast 6,000 fewer registrations.

Earlier this month, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes was scathing of the UK Government's lack of support for the automotive markets.

Hawes said it was "bitterly disappointing" that Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak had stopped short of supporting the restart of one of the UK’s most important employers and a driver of growth.

"The automotive sector has been particularly hard hit, with thousands of job losses already announced and many more at risk. Of Europe’s five biggest economies, Britain now stands alone in failing to provide any dedicated support for its automotive industry, a situation that will only deter future investment.

“We urgently need government to expand its strategy and introduce sector-specific measures for UK auto to support cash flow such as business rate holidays, tax cuts, and policies that provide broader support for consumer confidence and boost the big ticket spending that drives manufacturing.

"Until critical industries such as automotive recover, the UK economic recovery will be stuck in low gear," Hawes said.

Since then the chief executive of national dealer group Vertu Motors, Robert Forrester, has claimed that the SMMT's data doesn't tell the right story, because dealers weren't pushed into pre-registrations, and the reality was more positive.

That itself prompted some push back from smaller dealers on social media, including Batchelors Motor Group managing director Tony Denton who challenged whether the PLCs claims of strong pent-up demand post-lockdown might harm motor retail's attempts to lobby the UK Treasury for support measures.

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