The UK new car market fell 39.5 per cent in January with 59,030 fewer registrations compared to the same month last year, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Just 90,249 cars were registered as showrooms across the country remained shut, leading to the worst start to the year since 1970.
Demand remained depressed for both private buyers and large fleets.
Declines were also recorded in both petrol and diesel cars registrations, which fell by 62.1 per cent and 50.6 per cent respectively.
Battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake grew by 2,206 units (54.4 per cent) to take 6.9 per cent of the market, as the number of available models almost doubled from 22 in January 2019 to 40 this year.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Following a £20.4 billion loss of revenue last year, the auto industry faces a difficult start to 2021.
“The necessary lockdown will challenge society, the economy and our industry’s ability to move quickly towards our ambitious environmental goals.
“Lifting the shutters will secure jobs, stimulate the essential demand that supports our manufacturing, and will enable us to forge ahead on the Road to Zero.
“Every day that showrooms can safely open will matter, especially with the critical month of March looming.”