New car sales fall by 20 per cent in April

Ford Fiesta - front tracking

Vehicle registrations are down by a fifth as buyers looked to avoid the new tax rates in April but they’re still up on last year

New car sales plummeted by 20 per cent in April as buyers looked to avoid the new, higher Vehicle Excise Duty rates introduced in the beginning of the month.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 152,076 new cars were registered in April, down 19.8 per cent on the previous year. Overall registrations have reached 972,092 in the first four months of the year.

The SMMT said much of the fall was down to buyers trying to beat the 1 April tax hike by purchasing their cars in March. Demand across private and business fleets was down, with private buyers down the most, at 28.4 per cent.

• Best selling cars 2017

Fleet and business demand was down 12.3 per cent and 21.0 per cent, respectively. Diesel cars took a bit hit in April, with demand down by 27.3 per cent. Comparatively, demand for petrol cars was only down by 13.1 per cent. Curiously, even alternative fuel vehicle demand – which has grown by 23.8 per cent from 2016 was down 1.3 per cent in the month of April.

• “Petrol engines will kill diesel cars, not legislation”

Despite taking a 30 per cent fall in registrations in April, Ford continues to top the list for the best selling vehicle with its Fiesta. The Ford Focus is the second-best selling car in the UK, with 27,307 registrations since the beginning of the year.

Although the Vauxhall Corsa has the third highest registrations from the beginning of the year (23,765) it didn’t even make the top 10 list for April’s best-selling cars. Overall registrations for the Luton make were down 33 per cent for April.

However, despite poor numbers for April, overall vehicle registrations remain 1.1 per cent up compared to 2016 – which was a record year for vehicle sales.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said: “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. It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”