The data, released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), reveals 167,911 new cars were bought last month, up from 152,076 in April 2017. Private buyers drove almost all of the growth, with 26.3 per cent more private sales taking place in April 2018 than in 2017. The fleet market remained stable with growth of 0.9 per cent, but new business sales were down 12.9 per cent.
The decline of diesel sales continued last month, with 24.9 per cent fewer diesel being sold in April 2017; this is an improvement on March 2017, when diesel sales dropped by 37.2 per cent. Sales of petrol cars increased by 38.5 per cent in April 2018, while 49.3 per cent more hybrids and EVs were sold.
Experts have advised caution in interpreting the data however, partly as year-to-date sales for 2018 remain down 8.8 per cent compared to last year. April 2017 also provided a low baseline with which to compare last month’s figures, as buyers flocked to showrooms in March 2017 – before shunning them in April – in order to take advantage of the outgoing road tax system. At the time, this was particularly favourable to diesel cars due to their comparatively low carbon dioxide emissions.
Commenting on April’s figures, Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the data should not be looked at “in isolation”, adding: “Given the major disruption to last April’s market caused by sweeping VED changes, this increase is not unexpected.”
Hawes called the rise in hybrid and EV popularity “positive news”, but pointed out such vehicles still make up just 5.6 per cent of the overall market. He also reiterated calls for the Government to offer “certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel.”