Used car sector begins to recover following nearly 50% drop

14 August 2020 - autocar

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Sales plummeted during lockdown, but reopening of dealerships has fuelled demand

Despite a heavy year-on-year decline, the used car market is gradually recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

While used car sales for the second quarter of 2020 tumbled to 1,039,303, down 48.9% compared with the same period in 2019, the pace of decline gradually eased throughout the quarter.

In April, the SMMT recorded a peak 74.2% drop in used car sales nationwide, which compares with a relatively small 17.5% decline in June. Year to date, the SMMT estimates that some 1.16 million sales have been lost so far this year, with 85% of the decline occurring in Q2.

The SMMT cited the reopening of dealerships in June and a rejuvenated private market as the main reasons behind the apparent recovery, but warned that continued economic uncertainty and a suffering new car sector make it difficult to predict when the used sector will return to normal levels.

The top-selling model for Q2 was the Ford Fiesta, with almost 42,000 examples changing hands, more than double the number of the 10th most popular used car, the Mercedes C-Class. The supermini was also the best-selling used model in Q1, and consistently tops the new car sales rankings.

The Volkswagen Golf was the second-most-popular used car with 37,608 units sold, the Ford Focus came third with 36,852 and the Vauxhall Corsa, at number four, sold 35,976 units.

Black was once again the most popular colour of car, with almost 230,000 buyers opting for dark models, while, as in Q1, drivers in the south-east of the country bought the most used cars, with the north-west, West Midlands and London also maintaining a strong presence in the market.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "As devastating as these figures are, with full lockdown measures in place for the whole of April and May, they are not surprising.

"As the UK starts to get back on the move again and dealerships continue to reopen, we expect to see more activity return to the market, particularly as many people see cars as a safe and reliable way to travel during the pandemic.

"However, if we're to re-energise sales and the fleet renewal needed to drive environmental gains, support will be needed for the broader economy in order to bolster business and consumer confidence."

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