Brexit Turns Off U.K. Car Buyers With Worst March Since 2013

(Bloomberg) -- The approach of Brexit and concerns over the future of diesel vehicles pushed demand for cars in the U.K. to a six-year low last month.

Sales dropped 3.4 percent year-on-year to 458,054 passenger vehicles as consumers stayed away from showrooms during what’s usually a strong month for new purchases because of a number plate changeover, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

“March is a key barometer for the new-car market, so this fall is of clear concern,” the association’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Hawes said Thursday in a statement. “We urgently need an end to the political and economic uncertainty by removing permanently the threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.”

Brexit Turns Off U.K. Car Buyers With Worst March Since 2013

The U.K. government’s ongoing battle to find a way out of the impasse over Brexit, originally scheduled for March 29, is hurting consumer demand in a number of corners of Britain’s economy. EasyJet Plc warned this week that it was expecting a weaker summer travel season, while shares of cruise and tour provider Saga Plc fell 38 percent Thursday. It partly blamed a drop in travel bookings.

As well as Europe’s second-biggest car market, the U.K. is also the continent’s fourth-biggest vehicle manufacturer with companies like BMW AG, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota Motor Corp. and their suppliers reliant on cross-border supply chains and tariff-free access.

“I stopped trying to calculate the potential Brexit fallout,” Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of German car-parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG, told reporters Thursday. “What’s clear is that a disorderly Brexit would cause significant financial damage.”

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