U.K. Car Sales Stumble Again, Erasing Hopes of Quick Recovery

U.K. car sales fell for a second straight month, sliding 4% in the country’s weakest September for auto purchases in more than 20 years.

The decline in demand, revealed Monday in preliminary data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, follows a 5.8% 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 U.K. 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.

Car registrations in July brought the first monthly sales gain of the year as showrooms reopened following months-long lockdowns. 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% when compared with the 10-year average, accoding 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.

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