New car sales 2019: market falls 4.1 per cent in April as PHEV sales drop by a third

Plug-in hybrids sales fall dramatically following government grant cut; private sales down 10.3 per cent

Some 4.1 per cent fewer new cars were registered in April compared to the same month in 2018, while sales of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) dropped by over a third following the cut in the Government’s plug-in car grant, according to the latest industry figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ monthly collation of new car registrations reveals 161,064 new cars were registered last month, down from 167,911 in 2018. PHEV sales were down by a significant 34.4 per cent, following the Government’s decision last October to remove the £2,500 subsidy they previously received.

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As well as falling PHEV sales, April’s decline was driven by a 10.3 per fall in new cars being registered by private buyers, and a 32.7 per cent decline in new registrations to business users. Private buyers bought 67,807 new cars last month, while 3,241 business users registered a new model. Fleet buyers continue to dominate the sales charts, registering 90,016 new cars in April 2019 – up from 87,519 in the same month last year.

Diesel sales dropped by 9.4 per cent compared to April 2018, but the SMMT highlights the “the pace of decline slowed significantly” compared to previous periods; diesel cars made up 28.9 per cent of the new-car market in April.

Hybrids and EVs (alternatively fuelled vehicles) continued to grow in popularity, with sales rising 12.7 per cent last month. But with AFVs making up just 6.4 per cent of registrations thanks to sales of 10,254, buyers are still opting for petrol and diesel models by default. Some 107,490 new petrol cars were registered in April, as were 51,400 diesel models.

Commenting on April’s figures, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said “it’s great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero.”

Hawes said to continue the fight against emissions and pollution, the industry needs “policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers. This includes investment in infrastructure and long term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible.”

Click here to find out which car brands were the winners and losers in 2018…