New car sales fell 20 per cent in April: Here's why

Emma Haslett
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Sales of new cars dipped as drivers rushed to avoid tax changes (Source: Getty)

The number of new cars registered in the UK fell almost 20 per cent last month, as changes to taxation came into force.

Figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed new car registrations fell to 152,076 in April this year, down 19.8 per cent from the 189,505 sales recorded last year.

The SMMT said drivers were rushing to bring forward purchases before new vehicle excise duty rules rates came into force at the beginning of April.

Sales of diesel cars, about which the government has recently changed its advice, fell 27.3 per cent to 68,306, although diesel's share of the market rose to 49.6 per cent, from 44.9 per cent before.

Electric and hybrid vehicle registrations fell 1.3 per cent to 6,273, although their market share rose to 4.1 per cent, from 3.4 per cent before.

Despite April's dip, sales in the year to date were still strong, with 972,092 new cars registered so far this year, up 1.1 per cent from 961,285 this time last year.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid vehicle excise duty tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT.

"It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases."

In March the UK's new car market grew 8.4 per cent, its biggest monthly growth since records began, while UK car manufacturers had their most productive month since the year 2000, exporting one car every 20 seconds.

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