Car sales across the European Union dropped 6.6 per cent last month, driven by a 19.8 per cent decline in the UK, according to new figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA).
The ACEA, which represents the 15 Europe-based car, van, truck and bus makers, said that 1.19m cars were sold across the EU in April, falling from the 1.27m sold for the same time last year. The drop was predominantly attributed to Easter falling in April this year.
While sales in the first four months of the year increased by 4.7 per cent, that was half the growth rate recorded for January to April last year.
Pantheon Macroeconomics called the figures "a dreadful start to the second quarter", though noted they were "probably tainted by the slowdown in dealer registrations".
Claus Vistesen, Pantheon's chief Eurozone economist, said:
Growth mainly was pegged back by weakness in the major economies. This is the first year-over-year fall in EU 27 car registrations since 2013, which corroborates our story that consumers’ spending will lose momentum this year as inflation eats into real wages.
A 6.6 per cent decline, however, is not representative of the underlying trend. These data are volatile even in year-over-year guise, and we expect a rebound next month.
Most of the major European markets recorded a drop in demand last month, as sales in Germany fell eight per cent, France's were down six per cent and Italy's down 4.6 per cent. Spain bucked the trend with a rise in sales of 1.1 per cent.
The ACEA said "positive contributions" predominantly came from the so-called EU 12 countries; those that have joined the EU since 2004, with sales up 8.2 per cent.
It comes off the back of a bumper March with passenger car registrations up 11.2 per cent, while both January and February also had decent growth.