The UK’s new-car market declined by 4.1% in April (compared with April 2018), according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The month saw 161,064 units registered; this was the second-lowest April figure since 2012, but it followed a double-digit increase in April 2018.
Registrations by private motorists were down 10.3%, after a rise of more than 26% in April 2018.
That said, fleet demand grew by 2.9%, with businesses registering 2,498 more cars than in April 2018.
Declines were recorded across most vehicle segments, with registrations of popular supermini and small family cars falling most significantly — down 14.1% and 10.6% respectively.
The demand for lower-volume luxury saloons and sports cars rose, while the dual-purpose segment also grew — by 18.4% to 40,580 units.
These vehicles are now the third-most popular body type, with registrations tripling since 2012.
Diesel registrations fell again, but the pace of decline slowed significantly, with numbers down 9.4% compared with April 2018; petrol registrations also dropped (by 3.0%).
Overall, alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations grew by 12.7%, to 10,254. Petrol electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1% to 6,810 units.
Battery electric cars also recorded a strong increase, from 929 to 1,517 units, which still only represents 0.9% of the market.
However, zero-emission-capable plug-in hybrids experienced a significant decline, down 34.4% in April (and 20.4% in the first four months of 2019).
The SMMT (www.smmt.co.uk
) says this is evidence of the consequences of prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives, before the market is ready.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “While it is great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero tailpipe emissions.
"Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need. We need policies that help to get the cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly.
“This includes investment in infrastructure and long-term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible.”
In contrast, the demand for new light commercial vehicles (LCVs) grew in April, up 4.7%, according to the latest figures released by the SMMT, with 24,604 vans and pick-ups registered in the month, thanks to new models and “compelling market incentives” continuing the strong growth seen in Q1.