UK car sales down by 12% in 2021 so far, grow in March

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - British new car registrations fell by 12% in the first three month of 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier, which was mostly before the country was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, data published on Tuesday showed.

Registrations in March alone totalled 283,964, an increase of 11.5% as the annual comparisons began to reflect the onset of the crisis last year.

But sales last month were a third lower than their average level for March over the decade to 2019, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

"The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard," Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said.

"However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that England would proceed with the next stage of his plan to ease social-distancing rules from April 12 thanks to progress with vaccinations for COVID-19.

The SMMT data showed battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles took a combined market share of 13.9%, up from 7.3% last year.

Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken

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