Car registrations down by 4.1% in April with sales falling to 161,064 in the month
Both diesel and petrol demand dipped by 9.4% and 3% respectively
However, green plug-in hybrids posted the biggest loss, down 31.1%
SMMT said sales of plug-ins have been on the rocks since the Government removed £2,500 grant
Published: 07:16 EDT, 7 May 2019 | Updated: 04:51 EDT, 8 May 2019
Car sales remained in freefall in April as the ongoing decline in demand for new vehicles even hit eco-friendly hybrid models, latest statistics show.
Registrations of new cars fell 4.1 per cent last month, making it the second lowest April volume since 2012, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
While shrinking demand for diesels has been blamed for the relentless plunge in registrations in recent years, even the greenest of cars have taken a hit with plug-in hybrid registrations falling by more than a third.
Plug-in plunge: Sales of eco-friendly plug-in hybrid models - which can run for short periods using only electric power - were down by almost a third in April, the SMMT revealed
Some 161,064 new vehicle were registered in April, the SMMT's data shows.
That's down from 167,911 the year previous and marks the second slowest April in the last seven years.
While both diesel (down 9.4 per cent) and petrol (down three per cent) sales declined in the month, neither posted the most significant plunge.
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Battery-electric car (ones that have just an electric motor) sales grew the most - by 63 per cent - while conventional petrol-electric hybrid registrations were up 31.1 per cent in the month.
Surprisingly, it was zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids - like the latest Range Rover PHEV - that posted the biggest loss, with registrations dipping by 34.4 per cent - down 20.4 per cent for the year to date.
The SMMT said this is the result of the Government's decision at the end of 2018 to axe grants that were available to reduce the price of new plug-in hybrids by £2,500.
Sales for the year so far are down by 2.7%, the figures show. While alternative fuel vehicles (including all electric and hybrid cars) are up by 14.3%, they still only represent 5% of the new-car market
The government made the decision to axe the Plug-in Car Grant for plug-in hybrid models in October last year
The abolition of the plug-in car grant subsidy for plug-in hybrids - which was announced three weeks ahead of deadline in October - received heavy criticism from industry insiders who slammed minister for culling an incentive to help with the purchase of low-emissions vehicles it wants more Britons to drive.
The previous grant amount of £4,500 towards the purchase of a new pure-electric model was also reduced to £3,500 at the same time.We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive
When the Department for Transport announced the adjustment to the grant in October, it said: 'These changes to financial incentives reflect the ongoing success of the plug-in car grant in increasing uptake of electric vehicles, a key part of the government's Road to Zero strategy.
'The PICG has helped the plug-in hybrid market become more established, and the government will now focus its support on zero emission models like pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars.'
The move appears to have backfired on minister, with the removal of the scheme for plug-in models strangling the uptake of some of the most eco-friendly cars on sale at the moment.
And despite the stats showing registrations of pure-electric vehicle being up by almost two thirds, just 1,517 units were purchased by Britons in April - representing less than one per cent of the market.
Changes to Plug-in Car Grant rates
CATEGORY 1 CARS - GRANT REDUCED FROM £4,500 TO £3,500
These vehicles have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 112km (70 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all.
BMW i3 and i3s
Hyundai IONIQ Electric
Hyundai Kona Electric
Kia Soul EV
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
Nissan e-NV200 (5-seater and 7-seater)
Smart EQ fortwo
Smart EQ forfour
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model X
CATEGORY 2 CARS - £2,500 GRANT REMOVED
Category 2 cars These vehicles have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 16km (10 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all.
Audi A3 e-tron
Hyundai IONIQ PHEV
Kia Niro PHEV
Kia Optima PHEV
Mercedes-Benz C350 e (with 17 inch rear wheels)
Mercedes-Benz E350 e SE
Mitsubishi Outlander (except Commercial)
Toyota Prius Plug-in
Volkswagen Golf GTE
Volkswagen Passat GTE
Volvo S90 Twin Engine
Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine
Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine
Volvo V90 Twin Engine
Volvo XC60 Twin Engine
CATEGORY 3 CARS - £2,500 GRANT REMOVED
These vehicles have CO2 emissions of 50 to 75g/km and can travel at least 32km (20 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all.
Mercedes-Benz E350 e AMG Line
MINI Countryman PHEV
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: 'While it's 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.
'Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need.
'We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers.
'This includes investment in infrastructure and long term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible.'
This is the second lowest volume of sales of new cars in the month of April for 7 years. Only April 2016 saw fewer new vehicles being bought
Plug-in hybrid cars can be driven over short distances in electric-only mode, meaning they're cleaner for limited distances than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles
The SMMT's statement added: '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.'
Insiders say the decline in plug-in hybrid sales has not been caused by a lack of demand but limited availability of new models and a backlog in production. However, no figures have been provided to support these claims.
Closer inspection of the data shows that new models bought by private motorists fell by more than 10 per cent last month.
Fleet demand, meanwhile, remained stable, growing 2.9 per cent, 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 per cent and 10.6 per cent respectively.
Ford's new Fiesta and Focus were the models most car-buying Britons got their hands on last month, with the volume-selling VW Golf in third.
The new Ford Fiesta and Focus - as well as the VW Golf - are the models most favoured by Britons in April and 2019 as a whole
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