UK sales drop in September, normally a top sales month

LONDON — British new-car registrations fell by about 4 percent in September, usually one of the top two months of the year for sales, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to affect the sector.

The monthly figure of below 330,000 units was expected to be the lowest in more than 20 years.

The decline in demand, revealed on Monday in preliminary data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, follows a 5.8 percent drop in August and appears to dash hopes for an early recovery from a coronavirus-driven slump.

The figures are especially disappointing because September is usually a key month for UK auto retailers, with a change of year on license plates spurring purchases. The declines makes for the worst September since the two-plate system was introduced in 1999, the SMMT said.

Registrations in July brought the first monthly sales gain of the year as showrooms reopened following a months of lockdown. While that provided some relief as the industry cut jobs and capacity to weather the pandemic, the latest numbers suggest it was a blip representing limited pent-up demand.

The percentage drop was limited by sluggish sales in September 2019, with the dip stretching to 16 percent when compared with the 10-year average, according to the SMMT.

The industry is facing more than 21 billion pounds ($27 billion) in lost revenue by the end of the year, the group said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report

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