New car sales fall in April

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The new car market was down by 4% in April compared to the same month last year, thanks to a drop-off in private new car sales.

Registration figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this morning show that private sales fell by 10% (just under 8,000 cars) in April compared to last year, while fleet registrations were up by 3% (about 2,500 cars).

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Every month this year has seen private sales and fleet registrations seemingly at odds. Private buyers lifted the market in January and February but have been less enthusiastic in March and April, while the opposite has been true of the fleet market.

April 2019 private new car sales and fleet new car registrations

Stable month for diesels, plug-in hybrids losing their spark

Although the chart shows diesel registrations down another 9% in April compared to last year, things are relatively stable with diesel’s market share just under 30% – much as it has been for the last six months or so.

Registrations for alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) look positive at first glance, but are still well below the level of the second half of 2018. This is largely due to poor sales numbers of plug-in hybrids, down by 34% compared to the same month last year and down 20% year-to-date.

The SMMT blames the government for this (as usual) while conveniently ignoring the number of plug-in models that have been withdrawn from sale since new emissions laws came into place in September last year. This should pick up in the second half of the year as more of these models return to the market and other new models join them.

Registrations of regular hybrid cars are continuing to grow strongly, while purely electric new car sales are also increasing. EV sales are currently also limited by supply, as we reported last week, with some models sold out for up to a year in advance.

Good month, bad month

There was some minor shuffling of the ten best-selling models this month, but not enough to trouble the Ford Fiesta’s continued reign at the top of the new car sales charts. Crossovers were back in fashion, with four of the top ten models being faux-by-fours.

New car sales for April 2019 - ten best-selling cars
The Hyundai Tucson is a new appearance in the top ten this month

It was a good month for Bentley, BMW, Land Rover, Lexus, Mazda, McLaren and MG, who all saw growth of at least 10% compared to the same month last year. Also happy will be Audi, whose numbers look much better than any time since last August. The four-ringed Bavarians are still 5% down on the same month last year, but that’s a whole lot better than any other result over the last seven months.

Meanwhile, things were not so rosy for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Ford, Infiniti, Jeep, Lotus, Mini, Mitsubishi, Renault, Smart, SsangYong and Subaru, who all saw double-digit declines compared to the same month last year.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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