April sees UK car sales plummet 0

April-sees-UK-car-sales-plummetApril saw new UK car registrations plummet by almost a fifth. The fall was primarily down to consumers bringing forward purchases to sidestep the new vehicle excise duty that came into effect on the first of April.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed 152,076 new vehicles were registered in April – marking a 19.8% decline.

All categories saw a fall, with registrations by private buyers dropping by more than 28%, and registrations by businesses and large fleets falling by 21% and 12.3% respectively.

Despite a disappointing April, the SMMT data did show that the new car market remains robust for the year. Overall, new registrations for the opening four months of the year are 1.1% higher than they were for the same time last year – 972,092. This is the highest level for the period on record.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car,” he added.

“We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said that she also expects demand to bounce back, citing “record low interest rates and record high employment”.

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said that “consumers may be beginning to tighten the purse strings on large purchases given ongoing uncertainty in the wider economy” but that the April did bring “unique circumstances”.

“The message sellers should take is to be on their guard and monitor sales patterns over the next quarter.”

The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car in April, as it has been for 2017 so far, followed by the Nissan Qashqai, the Mercedes-Benz C Class, the Mercedes-Benz A Class and the Ford Focus.

Last month the SMMT reported that production of new cars in the UK had hit a 17-year high in March, particularly fuelled by robust demand from abroad.

But the trade body also reiterated the vulnerability of the UK car industry in the face of Brexit.

“Much of our output goes to Europe and it’s vital we maintain free trade between the UK and EU or we risk destroying this success story,” Mr Hawes said at the time.

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