21 Jun 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

New car market up in April: Ninth month of growth

New car sales were up 11.6% in April, with 132,990 vehicles registered, according to the latest figures from the SMMT.

Much of the increase has been in fleets. While sales to private buyers were down by 5.5%, fleet registrations were actually 33.1% higher.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were the second most popular type, adding up to 15.4% of the total sold in the month. However, with higher energy costs and charging infrastructure concerns, it is now predicted that for the year they will only get up to 18.4% of the total, not the previously predicted 19.7%, The latest outlook for 2024, predicts 22.6% of new car registrations will be BEVs, Petrol cars made up 58.1% of all registrations.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said: “The new car market is increasingly bullish, as easing supply chain pressures provide a much-needed boost. However, the broader economic conditions and chargepoint anxiety are beginning to cast a cloud over the market’s eagerness to adopt zero emission mobility at the scale and pace needed. To ensure all drivers can benefit from electric vehicles, we need everyone – government, local authorities, energy companies and charging providers – to accelerate their investment in the transition and bolster consumer confidence in making the switch.”

Mark Oakley, Director of AA Cars, commented: “After nine straight months of accelerating sales figures, the new car market’s extraordinary recovery still has more miles left in the tank. The big question now is how demand will hold up in the face of stubbornly high inflation and rising interest rates, which make the cost of financing a new car more expensive.”

NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson said: “After a positive first quarter of 2023, April has seen a continuation of pre-pandemic trends in new vehicle sales. Electric vehicles continue to grow market share in the UK. However, the velocity of sales is being impeded by a lack of adequate charging infrastructure across the country.”

April was the ninth month of new car sales growth in a row, as John Wilmot, CEO, car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco, observed: “Although new car sales are still well below pre-pandemic levels, a ninth consecutive month of growth is starting to feel like an upward trend that has some momentum behind it. Growth is still likely to remain steady rather than spectacular over the coming months, while high inflation and the cost of living crisis weighs on consumer confidence. Buyers are tentatively returning to the new car market rather than rushing to the showrooms.

“Supply chain disruptions have eased, which is a positive, but until consumers feel reassured that inflation is heading in the right direction, there will probably be a level of caution when it comes to big ticket purchases.

“The strength of the EV market remains at the core of a sustained recovery in new car sales. Future new car sales will be highly dependent on people buying plug-ins, but with diesel and petrol prices falling appreciably from last year highs, for many switching to electric doesn’t feel like a decision that needs to be taken immediately.”