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UK new car sales rise for first time in 2020 as dealerships reopen

FILE PHOTO: Toyota cars at a dealership in West London are pictured as it remains closed during lockdown following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations rose by an annual 11.3% in July, the only increase so far this year as showrooms across the whole of the United Kingdom were open for their first full month since lockdown measures eased.

The rise followed other signs of a gradual recovery in Britain’s economy after its historic 25% contraction in March and April. House prices and manufacturing have risen although jobs cuts are mounting in the retail sector.

Dealerships reopened their doors to customers on June 1 in England, June 8 in Northern Ireland, June 22 in Wales and June 29 in Scotland after being closed since mid-March.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an industry body, cautioned that pent-up demand had boosted the 174,887 sales recorded in July.

“By the end of September we should have a clearer picture of whether or not this is a long-term trend,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

The group has been lobbying for additional support for the sector, including a possible scrappage scheme.

July’s increase in sales was the first since December but year-to-date demand is down just over 40% and the latest forecast by SMMT predicts a full-year drop of around 30% in 2020.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Kate Holton and William Schomberg

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