Given the significant and unexpected challenges that faced the automotive sector and the whole economy in 2020, particularly the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is unsurprising that new car sales declined.

The UK new car market saw a -10.9% decline in December with 132,682 units registered, according to the latest SMMT’s new passenger car registration figures. In 2020, overall new car sales declined by -29.4% to 1.63 million units as physical showrooms had to remain shut for several weeks through the year, first in spring and, more recently, in November, in line with COVID-19 restrictions.

Sales of battery electric vehicles rose by 343.7% in December and 185.9% in 2020, plug-in hybrids grew by 103.3% in December and 91.2% over the twelve months. In 2020, diesel saw a decline of -55.5% and petrol was down -39.0%.

It is encouraging that despite the issues affecting the automotive industry and the economy, the EV market continued to grow, showing an increase in consumer appetite and rewarding the efforts dealers are making to meet the demand.

Although physical showrooms must remain closed over the coming weeks, franchised dealers have demonstrated their ability to adapt, providing ‘click & collect’ services to customers in a safe and compliant manner. This cannot fully replace the traditional buying experience but will offset some of the issues facing businesses over the coming months.

Overall, 2020 was a difficult year and the recently announced third national lockdown will be challenging for franchised retailers. However, in the longer term the signing of an agreement with the EU, the shift to EVs and the resilient nature of franchised dealers mean they are well placed for growth.