LONDON -- The UK car industry showed signs of improvement in June, spurred by the reopening of showrooms from lockdown measures designed to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Registrations last month fell 35 percent to 145,377, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in data published on Monday.
This was improvement over previous months, when demand fell 44 percent in March, 97 percent in April and 89 percent in May.
Improved footfall will be welcome news to showrooms and major UK-based automakers such as Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan.
Other European car markets are also pulling ahead, buoyed by government incentives to encourage drivers to trade in older cars for new ones. In France, car sales rose for the first time this year in June.
Like France, both Germany and Spain unveiled aid packages for the industry, while the SMMT has called for state support, saying one in six jobs are at risk. The UK is expected to be among the hardest hit among western economies.
Consumers will be wary about buying big-ticket items like cars, given uncertainty over the economy and jobs, Ian Plummer, director at automotive classifieds company Auto Trader, said. They will also be seeking clarity as to whether the government will opt for a so-called scrapping scheme before making the leap, he said.
"Signs point to a trickier outlook for new-car sales," Plummer said. "There's a stronger outlook for the used-car market --- likely as people find alternative means to public transport."
Plummer also called for support to the car-industry, worth 18.6 billion pounds ($23 billion) to the British economy.
While car showrooms were allowed to reopen from June 1 in England, dealers in Wales and Scotland had to wait until June 22 and June 29 respectively.
Despite the small rebound, the SMMT remained cautious.
"This is not a recovery and barely a restart," said Mike Hawes, SMMT's CEO. "Many of June's registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable," he said
UK market leader Ford fell 38 percent last month, while VW, at No. 2, fell 39 percent. Third-place Toyota was the only top 5 brand to grow sales in June with its registrations up 2.7 percent. BMW, at No. 4, dropped 47 percent. Mercedes-Benz was No. 5 with a fall of 36 percent.
- Download UK June sales by brand here
Among other brands, Vauxhall sales dropped 41 percent; Hyundai's registrations fell 53 percent; Kia was down 35 percent; Jaguar dropped 42 percent; Land Rover declined by 28 percent and Mini was down 43 percent.