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New car registration decline must be viewed in light of the pandemic


Following the announcement by the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders that new car registrations fell by almost 30 per cent during 2020, reaching a 30 year low, John Roberts, Head of Automotive & Roadside, at Colliers International provided his analysis of the data. 

“It has been published that new car registrations have suffered a decline not seen in the UK for 30 years, however this news has been sensationalised,” he said. “The dramatic decline in car registrations is purely a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that were imposed on the sector in the Spring and the Autumn. Car dealerships, along with non-essential retail and hospitality, had to close during the lockdown periods and were only able to provide aftersales services and most recently click and collect - albeit not all dealers and dealerships are able to provide this service. 

“Interestingly, if we break down the months where dealerships were able to trade, we saw an increase in sales, for example in July 2020, in comparison to July 2019, there was an increase of 11 per cent. Also, the second plate change in September 2020, only saw a reduction of 4.4 per cent in comparison to September 2019’s figures. 

“We also need to consider used car sales, which have remained particularly resilient over the last few years. Although the full used car sales data has not yet been released, currently there is reduction of 17.5 per cent, which again is mostly due to the effects of the pandemic and the lockdowns which forced closures. However, in Q3 2020, there was a 4.4% increase in sales in comparison to Q3 2019, therefore, highlighting that consumer demand is there.

Looking ahead at the market for 2021 John added: “There has been positive news in relation to the Brexit trade deal, where it has been agreed that cars and parts are able to travel between the UK and Europe without restrictions, including tariffs and taxes. So, once the vaccine is fully implemented and the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we will inevitably see considerable increases in sales, especially in the electric vehicle sector where there is a significant amount of new product coming through.” 

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John Roberts

Head of Automotive and Roadside

Automotive and Roadside


John has worked within this niche sector for many years and has been a member of the Colliers International Automotive and Roadside Team for over 15 years. His specialist areas of expertise include motor dealerships, car supermarkets, after sales retail networks including motorist centres, trade counter, drive thru' and roadside retail properties.

He acts on behalf of some of the lead investors, developers and occupiers within these sectors dealing with professional, agency, development and investment matters. His clients include, Arnold Clark, Volkswagen Group, Johnsons Cars, AEW, EG Group, CBRE Investors, Formula One Autocentres and Listers Group.

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Kim Inam

PR Manager

Marketing & Communications

London - West End

I'm a communications professional who has previously worked as a journalist for eight years covering a broad range of topics including politics, crime, health and housing in north London. In recent years I have worked in corporate communications for local authorities across London  and joined Colliers in October 2019, initially providing maternity leave cover.

I provide strategic public relations advice to various business lines within the UK organisation to secure recognition for their work in the property press as well as key target media, and work with our experts to produce thought leadership pieces which are of interest to our clients and colleagues within the commercial real estate sector. In addition, alongside colleagues in the PR and wider communications team, I provide media and social media training for our in-house experts to prepare them for media opportunities and raise their personal brand within the sector.

As well as supporting various teams within the UK business, I also I curate and edit regular content for the blog, which drives credible business leads to our experts.


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