New car demand falls in April as plug-in hybrids take a hit

Time 9:10 am, May 7, 2019

THE UK new car market declined by 4.1 per cent in April, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The month saw 161,064 units registered – the second lowest April volume since 2012 but following a double-digit increase the previous year.

Registrations by private motorists fell last month, down 10.3 per cent, after a rise of more than 26 per cent in April 2018. Fleet demand, meanwhile, remained stable, growing by 2.9 per cent, with these businesses registering 2,498 more cars than in April 2018.

Declines were recorded across most vehicle segments, with registrations of popular supermini and small family cars falling most significantly, down 14.1 per cent and 10.6 per cent . Demand for lower volume luxury saloons and sports cars rose while the dual purpose segment also grew, by 18.4 per cent to 40,580 units. These vehicles are now the third most popular body type, with registrations tripling since 2012.3

Source: SMMT

Diesel registrations fell again, but the pace of decline slowed significantly, down 9.4 per cent. Petrol demand also dropped, by 3.0 per cent. Overall, alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations grew by 12.7 per cent, with 10,254 leaving showrooms. Petrol-electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1 per cent to 6,810 units. Battery-electric cars also recorded a strong uplift, from 929 to 1,517 units, which still only represents 0.9 per cent of the market.

Meanwhile, zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids experienced a significant decline, down 34.4 per cent in April and 20.4 per cent for the year to date – evidence of the consequences of prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready, said the SMMT.

Manufacturers are investing heavily to bring ultra-low and zero-emission cars to market, with some 40 plug-in models now available in showrooms, and more than 20 others expected to arrive in 2019. However, if this still-emerging sector is to reach meaningful levels, added the society, measures and incentives that build business and consumer confidence will be vital.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘While 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. Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever-cleaner cars to suit every need.

‘We need 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.’

Source: SMMT

MORE: UK car market falls in March as uncertainty undermines buyer confidence

MORE: Car registrations up by 1.4 per cent in February, reports SMMT

MORE: January sees another month of decline in UK’s new car market

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