UK new car sales rise over 3,000% from last year's lockdown low

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car sales rose by more than 3,000% in April as the reopening of dealerships to the public in England helped boost figures compared to the same time last year when the first lockdown almost completely wiped out volumes.

Registrations stood at 141,583 vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), up from just 4,321 in April 2020, the lowest level of any month since February 1946 as plants and showrooms shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dealerships reopened to the public from April 12 in England while delivery, click and collect and online services also facilitated purchases. Plants have continued to operate with COVID-safe measures in place.

But last month's performance was still 13% below the 2010-2019 average, the SMMT said.

"After one of the darkest years in automotive history, there is light at the end of the tunnel," said SMMT boss Mike Hawes.

"A full recovery for the sector is still some way off, but with showrooms open and consumers able to test drive the latest, cleanest models, the industry can begin to rebuild."

(Reporting by Costas Pitas. Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Elizabeth Piper)