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Private new car sales slow in April

Consumer new cars sales were down more than 5% in April, while the EV revolution continues to struggle for momentum

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Consumer new car sales had a tough month in April, with registrations down more than 5% on the same month last year. It was also another middling month for new EV registrations as the electric revolution continues to struggle for momentum.

According to data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this morning, the overall market was up nearly 12%. However, this was again thanks to growth in fleet purchasing as the sector’s rebound from pandemic delays continues.

Depressed new car market for consumers

Overall new car sales were slightly stronger than expected thanks to improved fleet registrations, although the longer-term decline evident since the middle of the last decade continues.

For private new car sales, a poor April follows a flat March and means that year-to-date sales are now down on last year. About 3,600 fewer new cars were registered to private buyers in April compared to the same month last year. And it’s about 23% – or 18,000 cars – fewer than seen in April 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

For fleets, the superficial improvement over last year is still a minor victory in comparison to the significant drop from pre-pandemic sales. Using the same comparison, this month’s data was down 32% – or 32,000 fewer cars – than April 2019.

April

BuyerApril 2023April 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Private61,34264,916-5.5%46.1%54.5%
Fleet68,53751,50533.1%51.5%43.2%
Business3,1112,74613.3%2.3%2.3%
Total132,990119,16711.6%
Source: SMMT

Year to date

BuyerYTD 2023YTD 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Private289,595292,339-0.9%46.2%54.5%
Fleet321,817231,58039.0%51.3%43.1%
Business15,83812,80823.7%2.5%2.4%
Total627,250536,72716.9%
Source: SMMT

Welcome improvement for EVs, but more needed

On the surface of it, April was a good month for new electric car registrations, with sales up 59% and market share showing significant growth over the same month last year. While that’s true, it’s still less than overall EV market share for 2022 (15.4% vs. 16.6%).

As the deadline for the end of petrol and diesel new car sales looms larger each month, what is needed is growth each month and the market is underachieving on this. The only good news worth mentioning here is that this month’s EV improvements were achieved without significant input from Tesla, which tends to dominate the EV market but registers large numbers of cars in some months while very few in other months.

The government wants to introduce mandates for minimum numbers of EV sales from as soon as next year, but based on current performance, all that’s going to do is limit petrol car sales and reduce overall new car sales even further than we have already.

Plug-in hybrids outperformed the overall market for the first time in several months, but remain the least popular type of powertrain for new cars. Regular hybrids underachieved against the overall market, which reverses a trend from recent months.

New car registrations by fuel type – April

FuelApril 2023April 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Petrol*77,27573,2235.5%58.1%61.4%
Electric20,52212,89959.1%15.4%10.8%
Hybrid15,02613,9517.7%11.3%11.7%
Diesel*11,57212,645-8.5%8.7%10.6%
Plug-in hybrid8,5956,44933.3%6.5%5.4%
Total132,990119,16711.6%

*includes mild hybrids
Source: SMMT

New car registrations by fuel type – Year to date

FuelYTD 2023YTD 2022% changeMarket share 2023Market share 2022
Petrol*357,912305,87617.0%57.0%57.0%
Electric96,75577,06425.6%15.4%14.4%
Hybrid80,88762,06330.3%12.9%11.6%
Diesel*51,33655,514-7.5%8.2%10.4%
Plug-in hybrid40,36036,21011.5%6.4%6.7%
Total627,250536,72716.9%

*includes mild hybrids
Source: SMMT

Good month, bad month

Within the overall market, there are always some brands that are performing well while others lag behind. April was no different, with some brands showing large swings compared to last year.

It was a good month for Alfa Romeo, Cupra, Dacia, DS Automobiles, Genesis, Lexus, MG, Polestar, Porsche, Skoda, Tesla, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo. All of these brands outperformed the overall market by at least 10%.

Meanwhile, things weren’t so sweet for Abarth, Alpine, BMW, Citroën, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Nissan, Renault, SEAT, Smart, SsangYong and Suzuki. All of these brands underperformed against the overall market by at least 10%.

That means that the following brands were more or less in line with overall market growth: Audi, Bentley, Ford, Kia, Maserati, Peugeot, Subaru and Toyota.

Volkswagen continued to be the UK’s top-selling car brand in April, ahead of Audi (helped by a very strong month for the Audi A3), Ford, Kia and Vauxhall (boosted by a return to form for the Vauxhall Corsa).

April

RankBrandRegistrationsMarket share
1Volkswagen11,7588.9%
2Audi11,3798.6%
3Ford10,2917.8%
4Kia7,9356.0%
5Vauxhall7,8455.9%
6BMW6,8045.1%
7Hyundai6,5694.9%
8Toyota6,5314.9%
9Peugeot5,5254.2%
10Skoda5,2724.0%

Source: SMMT

Year to date

RankBrandRegistrationsMarket share
1Volkswagen52,7498.4%
2Ford46,7147.5%
3Audi44,0777.0%
4Kia40,1906.4%
5Toyota38,2796.1%
6BMW32,6505.2%
7Nissan30,8574.9%
8Vauxhall30,6694.9%
9Hyundai30,6564.9%
10Mercedes-Benz28,8014.6%

Source: SMMT

Ford Puma takes April honours

The Ford Puma small SUV was the UK’s best-selling new car in April, taking top spot for the first time since August 2021 and becoming the fourth different car to top the list in the four months of the year so far. The Vauxhall Corsa finished second, which was enough to push it back to the top in year-to-date sales after a relatively quiet month for the Nissan Qashqai.

The Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson continued their strong performances, while the Audi A3 made a surprise appearance in fifth position. The MG ZS small SUV was another unexpected name in the top ten list, while last month’s sales superstar, the Tesla Model Y, unsurprisingly disappeared again. Don’t worry, Tesla fans, you’ll probably see it at or near the top of the charts again in September.

We’ll have our full analysis of the best-sellers in the next day or so as usual.

April

RankBrandRegistrations
1Ford Puma3,570
2Vauxhall Corsa3,203
3Kia Sportage3,073
4Hyundai Tucson2,911
5Audi A32,548
6Nissan Qashqai2,538
7Volkswagen T-Roc2,385
8Ford Fiesta2,336
9MG ZS2,335
10Mini hatch2,304

Source: SMMT

Year to date

RankBrandRegistrations
1Vauxhall Corsa14,034
2Nissan Qashqai13,611
3Ford Puma13,128
4Kia Sportage12,632
5Nissan Juke12,590
6Hyundai Tucson12,378
7Tesla Model Y11,503
8Mini hatch10,632
9Volkswagen T-Roc10,505
10Ford Fiesta10,473

Source: SMMT

The latest from The Car Expert

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
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.