The continuing closure of car showrooms until at least mid-April is “deeply disappointing”, an automotive industry body has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that non-essential retail venues in England will not be allowed to welcome customers until April 12 at the earliest.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the industry understands that the priority “must be to get the virus under control”.


But he added: “Nevertheless, the fact that retail showrooms must remain closed until April at least is deeply disappointing given these facilities are Covid-secure, large premises with low footfall and able to operate on an appointment-only basis.

“Whilst click and collect can continue, this does not replace the showroom experience on which so many retail customers depend, especially in the all-important March plate change month that represents one in five of annual new car registrations.

“Unfortunately, the continuing decline in retail business will translate into reduced production volumes as well as giving rise to other operational issues.

“We look to Government to work with the sector to provide ongoing support and clarity so the industry can plan its reopening and recovery.”

The UK’s automotive industry has suffered its weakest start to a year since 1970, with demand for new cars down by 40% last month compared to January 2020.