Latest figures published by the trade association for the UK motor industry show that new car registrations in March 2020 fell by almost half.

The figures from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders show a drop of 44.4% compared with March last year, with just over 200,000 fewer cars sold in the month.

The coronavirus outbreak is clearly having a real impact on demand for new cars.  It appears that some car buyers may be postponing or cancelling planned purchases due to the financial uncertainty arising from the outbreak, while others can't complete their purchase due to dealership closures and the ongoing lockdown.

The car industry and the Government may want to start thinking about how to remedy this apparent stall in sales.

One initiative that might make a return is a face-lifted model of the vehicle scrappage scheme that was introduced in the 2009 Budget.  This scrappage scheme aimed to encourage motorists to purchase a new, more environmentally-friendly car or van and scrap an older, more polluting vehicle that they had owned for more than a year.

However, the scheme wasn't a cheap cure for the car industry's ills.  It cost taxpayers around £300 million to support the replacement of around 300,000 cars - a cost to taxpayers of £1,000 per vehicle.

Before re-launching a similar scrappage scheme, the Government will want to consider the failings of the previous model and re-tune it to ensure that any 2020 iteration doesn't suffer from the same sluggish performance issues.

The key failing of the 2009 model identified at the time by the Institute for Fiscal Studies was that it, for a large part, subsidised replacements that would have happened anyway.  In other words, it caused car buyers to bring forward a vehicle purchase, leading to fewer sales further down the road.

Any face-lifted scheme for the 2020s will need to ensure that it does more than simply super-charge sales for the short-term and, instead, inject a sustainable boost into the car industry for several years to come.