UK car sales fall in April, plug-in hybrids hardest hit

April figures reflect government's decision to axe incentives for plug-in hybrids. Overall, UK car registrations fell by 4.1%

By Rachel Burgess, Autocar UK calendar 08 May 2019 Views icon3098 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
The Outlander PHEV is a popular plug-in hybrid in the UK

The Outlander PHEV is a popular plug-in hybrid in the UK

Sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles fell by 34.3 percent in April, a result of the government’s move to abolish its plug-in car grant for everything but pure electric models.

The figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that, year-to-date, plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations have dropped by 20.4 percent.

The government announced in October last year that it would, with immediate effect, pull support for plug-in hybrid vehicles and decrease the subsidy for electric vehicles from £4500 (Rs 409,664) to £3500 (Rs 318,671). However, it has taken a few months for existing orders to be fulfilled to see the full effect of the grant’s removal.

An SMMT spokesman said: “Manufacturers are investing heavily to bring ultra-low and zero-emission cars to market, with some 40 plug-in models now available in showrooms, and over 20 more expected to arrive in 2019. 

“However, if this still emerging sector is to reach meaningful levels, measures and incentives that build business and consumer confidence will be vital.”

Overall, alternatively fuelled vehicle registrations grew by 12.7 percent, with 10,254 cars sold. Petrol-electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1 percent to 6810 units. Electric cars also saw a strong uplift, from 929 to 1517 units, accounting for 0.9 percent of the market.

Across the entire new car market, registrations decreased by 4.1 percent to 161,604 units.

Private registrations fell by 10.3 percent while fleet demand remained steady, growing 2.9 percent. Diesel car sales, which have been hit hard over the past 18 months, typically seeing declines of a third, have fallen again but at a slower rate, down 9.4 percent. Petrol demand also dropped by 3 percent.

Demand for most vehicle segments decreased, with registrations of popular supermini and small family cars falling most significantly, down 14.1 percent and 10.6 percent respectively. Demand for lower-volume luxury saloons and sports cars rose.

The Ford Fiesta remained the top-selling car in the UK in April, followed by the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Mercedes A-Class.


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