April new car registrations show a ‘significant decline’ says SMMT

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that the UK new car market experienced a significant decline in April, following exceptional growth in the previous month as buyers brought forward purchases ahead of the switch to new VED rates, which came into force on 1 April 2017. The figures show that 152,076 new cars were registered in April, a -19.8 per cent decline.

Demand was down across the board, with registrations by private buyers, businesses and large fleets falling -28.4 per cent, -21.0 per cent and -12.3 per cent respectively. Petrol, diesel and alternatively fuelled vehicle registrations also declined, with AFV demand down for the first time in 47 months, albeit by a marginal -1.3 per cent.

Despite the substantial falls in the month, the overall new car market remains strong in the year to date, with new registrations in the first four months up 1.1 per cent year-on-year to 972,092 – the highest level on record.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED 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. 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.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), agreed that the new tax introduction prompted buyers to bring their purchases forward into March, and Easter falling during the month also affected the figures. Robinson went on: “Intelligence from NFDA members suggests that footfall has remained stable, but there is an element of uncertainty, particularly due to the upcoming elections, which is encouraging customers to delay their purchases”.

Regarding the decline in AFVs, Robinson said that it is important that the Government continues to support motorists who are willing to switch to greener cars. She concluded: “April is traditionally one of the quieter months for new car retail. Positively, year to date the market remains up by 1.1 per cent and with record low interest rates and record high employment levels consumer demand is expected to remain stable going forward.”

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