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UK car registrations soar in May but still lower than pre-Covid levels

UK new car registrations soared in May as showrooms reopened after the national Covid lockdown, but were still lower than 2019 pre-pandemic levels, industry figures showed on Friday.
New car sales rose by 674% in May year on year, but were down 15% compared to the same month in 2019, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Dealerships opened up again on April 12 in England this year but were shut throughout May in 2020.

Volumes came in at 156,737, driven by demand for business fleets, up from the 20,247 cars sold in May 2020 but lower than the 183,724 purchases made in 2019.

“Against a more positive economic backdrop – including OECD forecasting a 7.2% increase in UK GDP during 2021 – fleet registrations grew more than twice as fast as private purchases in May,” the SMMT said in a statement.

Large fleets accounted for 50.7% of all new vehicles “demonstrating improving business confidence compared to the same month last year”.

“Increased business confidence is driving the recovery, something that needs to be maintained and translated in private consumer demand as the economy emerges from pandemic support measures,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Demand for electrified vehicles is helping encourage people into showrooms, but for these technologies to surpass their fossil-fuelled equivalents, a long term strategy for market transition and infrastructure investment is required.”

Car makers have also faced supply problems due to a shortage of semi-conductor chips now prevalent in all new cars.

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