Worst UK new car sales for January in decades amid lockdown hit

FILE PHOTO: Cars are displayed outside a showroom in west London October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations slumped to their lowest January level since 1970 as lockdown measures shut showrooms, an industry body said on Thursday.

Sales fell by an annual 39.5% to 90,249 vehicles last month according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

England, the most populous of the UK’s four nations, and the Scottish mainland both became subject to stricter rules from Jan. 5, restricting people’s movements and shutting many businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Car showrooms have been forced to close their doors to the public although many dealers are using online, delivery and click-and-collect services to continue to operate.

The sector is nervously looking ahead to March, one of the top two selling months of the year due to the change in the licence plate series.

“Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Estelle Shirbon