Sales of new cars rose for the first time in over a year, but that is because of poor comparative figures in April last year rather than a recovery in the market, new figures show.
Some 167,911 new cars were sold in April, a 10.4 per cent increase compared to April last year, according to the latest figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The rise brings an end to after twelve consecutive months of declines. However, that is due to poor numbers from April 2017, when the implementation of new Vehicle Excise Duty tax rates caused a rush of new registrations in the previous month.
In decline: Despite April’s rise, new car sales are down 8.8 per cent since the start of 2018
There was a ‘notable’ increase in demand in alternatively fuelled vehicles, up 49.3 per cent, but diesel continued its downward trend with sales down 25 per cent as it continues to suffer from a government’s crackdown.
Around 51,000 new diesel cars were registered in April compared with 68,000 during the same month in 2017, with diesel car now making up 31 per cent of all sales, compared to 45 per cent last year.
A further update to VED introduced last month could see registrations fall further as all new diesel models move one tax band higher in the first year as part of ministers’ ploy to wipe out the under-fire fuel type and persuade drivers to switch to greener cars.
Meanwhile, sales of hybrids and pure electrics cars were just over 9,300, up from 2,270 a year ago, making up now 6 per cent of the market. Registrations of petrol cars were up 39 per cent last month, at just over 107,000.
In the year to date, sales of new cars were down 8.8 per cent, as uncertainty continues to affect overall market, the SMMT said.
‘Not unexpected’: This month’s increase is only down to poor comparatives
‘It’s important not to look at one month in isolation and, given the major disruption to last April’s market caused by sweeping VED changes, this increase is not unexpected. While the continuing growth in demand for plug-in and hybrid cars is positive news, the market share of these vehicles remains low and will do little to offset damaging declines elsewhere,’ said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.
‘Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.’
Andrew Hooks at carwow said: ‘Today’s results do not mark a recovery. The reality is, the car industry – and the consumer – need clarity of strategy from the government, including a practical and actionable plan to manage the long term transition from fossil fuel to alternatives over the next 20 years.’
Richard Jones, managing director of motor finance provider Black Horse, which is part of Lloyds Banking Group, also said the ‘ongoing confusion’ around fuel choice remains ‘a major concern’.
He added: ‘The public policy debate on diesel has led many customers to the mistaken view that the biggest issue to be addressed in reducing emissions is the removal of diesel cars from the UK’s roads.
‘Rather, the most important issue is actually the more general removal of older, more polluting cars – whether petrol or diesel.’
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