By Archie Mitchell
Tesla’s /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA -1.73% Model 3 was the U.K.’s highest selling car in May, the second month in a row that the electric vehicle outpaced rivals in a pandemic hit auto market. But don’t expect the run to last too much longer -- with physical showrooms set to reopen on Monday, analysts say sales of other vehicles could overtake the Model 3 soon.
Overall car sales fell 89% in May compared with the same month a year ago, figures released on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show. Sales are down 51% in the first five months of 2020 and in April saw the biggest drop since World War II.
U.K. drivers bought 20,247 cars in May -- down 163,477 from a year ago -- of which 852 were Tesla Model 3s.
Tesla’s relatively strong performance is partly down to its online sales model, which means it is less reliant than rivals on physical dealerships. Most showrooms have been closed since March because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Model 3 also fared relatively well because of attractive tax benefits for electric vehicles, according to Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois.
But observers say the broader market is set for a stronger performance as the lockdown measures are loosened.
“These [May] figures are exceptional and it’s not exaggerating to suggest it is unlikely we’ll see monthly new car sales as low as these again in our lifetime,” said Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk.
The SMMT said sales in May had been helped by “click and collect” services which picked up from the middle of the month. It also said the reopening of showrooms on Monday was an important step to getting the industry back on track.
“Customers keen to trade up into the latest, cutting-edge new cars are now able to return to showrooms and early reports suggest there is good business given the circumstances,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive.
Despite topping the table for two months in a row, the Model 3 still sits outside the top 10 in overall sales for 2020.
Meanwhile, the Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/204309985/delayed DE:VOW3 -1.72% Golf dropped out of the top 10 selling cars after being number one in February and March. The German firm makes almost all of its sales in physical showrooms and dealerships. The second highest seller in May was the Vauxhall Corsa - customers bought 790 Corsas.