Increase in new car registrations

The UK new car market grew 10.4% in April, with 167,911 new units registered, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Demand was affected by a number of factors, including the timing of Easter, which meant two additional selling days this April, and March’s adverse weather, which pushed some deliveries into April. Most significant, however, were the VED changes that came into force last April, causing a pull forward into March 2017 and a subsequent depressed April market.

April figures this year paint a mixed picture, with private demand growing 26.3%, while the fleet market remained stable at 0.9 per cent. However, business registrations saw a significant decline, falling -12.9% compared with the same month last year.

Demand for petrol cars grew in April, up 38.5%, while diesel registrations continued the recent trend, declining -24.9%. Meanwhile, registrations of plug-in and hybrid electric cars continued to rise, up 49.3%. While the growth is welcome, these alternatively fuelled vehicles still account for just 5.6% of the market.

Simon Benson of AA Cars said, ‘With an almost 50% increase in registrations for alternatively fuelled vehicles, the SMMT data gives a clear indication that demand for hybrid or pure electric cars is booming. The picture we are seeing with our data reinforces that view, with drivers becoming more conscious of how clean cars are before making a purchase.’

Despite the significant rise in the month, the overall new car market remains down year to date, with new registrations in the first four months falling -8.8 per cent. While this level of decline is expected to slow over the course of 2018, political and economic uncertainty will continue to affect the market and further instability could cause additional disruption.

Alex Buttle, director, of Motorway.co.uk, said, ‘After a year of falling new car registrations, this feels like a temporary respite for the car industry rather than a new dawn. Unfortunately, there’s no tangible evidence to suggest there are better times ahead, and it would be foolhardy for hopes to be raised on one month’s figures.’