Car sales soar but still a long way to go

Dealers rejoice as showrooms re-open across the UK

UK car sales rocketed in April – but the car industry is not ready to celebrate just yet.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed registrations of new cars in the UK were 141,583, some 30 times more than the same month in 2020.

However April 2020 was at the height of the first Covid lockdown, when car showrooms were closed and as a result just 4,321 vehicles were registered. This month’s total, while encouraging, is still almost 13% down on the average April sales over the last decade.

The reopening of showrooms resulted in retail sales showing the biggest jump, the 61,935 private registrations more than 7,000% up on the mere 871 in April 2020. But year-to-date figures show there is still a long way to go, the market so far up just 16% on 2020 despite last year being decimated by lockdowns. These figures are of course expected to improve as the year goes on and more buyers return to showrooms.

April 2021 car sales figures

Meanwhile the plug-in market appears to have stalled slightly – registrations accounted for just over 13% of the market, with unusually plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) taking more share than full battery-electrics (BEVs), at 6.8 and 6.5% respectively.

BEV registrations were down from a recent average of 7.5% of the market, in the first month of figures following the Government’s recent cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant.

Following the latest figures the SMMT has slightly boosted its prediction for full-year car registrations in 2021, from 1.83 million to 1.86 million. This will still be down 20% on the average full-year figure over the last decade. The SMMT also believes BEVs will take slightly less of overall market share than previously expected.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes described the figures as “light at the end of the tunnel after one of the darkest years in automotive history”, but added that a complete recovery is still some way off.

“Market confidence is improving, and we now expect to finish the year in a slightly better position than anticipated in February, largely thanks to the more upbeat business and consumer confidence created by the successful vaccine rollout,” Hawes added.

April 2021 best sellers

Meanwhile, in the new-car top ten, the dethroning of the Ford Fiesta has continued. Topping the charts for more than a decade, the Ford supermini could manage only third spot in the April table, with its great rival the Vauxhall Corsa continuing to lead both the monthly and year-to-date charts.

Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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