Car sales: zooming up in April
Car sales: zooming up in April

THE UK new car market grew 10.4% in April, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

There were 167,911 new units registered compared with 152,076 year-on-year.

The SMMT said demand was affected by a number of factors:

  • the timing of Easter, which meant two additional selling days this April,
  • and March’s adverse weather, which pushed some deliveries into April
  • Most significant, however, were the VED changes that came into force last April, causing a pull forward into March 2017 and a subsequent depressed April market.

April figures show a mixed picture of demand:

  • Private registrations grew 26.3%
  • The fleet market remained stable at 0.9%
  • Business registrations declined, falling -12.9%

Demand for supermini and dual-purpose cars saw the most significant growth of all segments, up 27.0% and 26.8% respectively.

Car sales: zooming up in April

Reaction from Leasing Broker Federation Steering Committee

“It was interesting to see the market was up in April and I noted the points about the two extra days, and the weather affected deliveries moving cars out from March into April,” said Paul Parkinson Managing Director of Synergy Automotive, winner of 2017’s Best Medium Leasing Broker and Best Medium Customer Service Awards.

“April 2017 had been our worst month in the previous two years to that point. So it would be more interesting to see how 2018 performed against April in 2016 and 2015.

“As for this April, at Synergy we were 241% on April 2017, allowing for the following:

  • Shift in product mix, deliberate reduction in Manufacturer finance.
  • WLTP issues becoming more of a factor, restrictions on factory orders and stock.
  • Audi Agency move
  • Volvo over subscription of certain products
  • General new car registration decline in Q1”
Keith Hawes, a director at Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, added:
“Your analysis regarding the April market is pretty much spot on – however, that explains deliveries/registrations. To gauge the market activity and consumer behaviour I have looked at Nationwide’s order take activity during the month.
“It is true to say our order take since January has significantly increased against 2017 – in April specifically our order take is up by 33%!  I believe this is due to a combination of factors:
“We are still able to offer strong rentals and have had availability of good stock.
“We have increased our marketing activity and we are also focusing on successfully converting the large number of renewals of existing customers into new contracts.
‘We are able to offer customers availability of value for money products – the simplicity of the BCH and PCH product are also attracting more and more customers.”

Reaction from the funders

Ashley Barnett, Head of Consultancy at Lex Autolease said:

“It’s unsurprising to see new car registrations for April rebound Y-O-Y, given the VED changes in 2017 which saw more deliveries brought forward to March.

“Looking at the year-to-date figures however, the market is down – but this is not necessarily the best indicator of how the new vehicle market is performing.

“The average replacement cycle for most UK company car fleets is four years. If we compare Q1 2018 with the same period in 2014 and 2010, there is in fact a slight increase over time (17% between 2010 and 2018 and 4% increase between 2014 and 2018).

“Of more concern is that in order to meet government targets around emissions, we do need to see a more marked increase in registrations, so that older, more polluting vehicles are replaced with new, cleaner technologies.”

Diesel continues its fall

Demand for petrol cars grew in April, up 38.5%, while diesel registrations continued the recent trend, declining -24.9%.

Registrations of plug-in and hybrid electric cars continued to rise, up 49.3%, thanks to a growing choice of models. However, these AFV vehicles still only account for 5.6% of the market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:

“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. 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.”

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