April saw an ‘artificial 30-fold increase’ of new car registrations as showrooms reopened

Published 05 May 2021

New car registrations rose by an astonishing 3177 per cent year-on-year in April as customers could return to recently reopened dealerships. However, volumes still remained 13 per cent lower than the 10-year average (at just 141,583 vehicles), according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

While this year’s monthly total dwarfed April 2020, when the first national lockdown effectively shut the country and just 4321 cars were registered, the SMMT has labelled this figure as an ‘artificial 30-fold increase’ due to the unprecedented closure of dealerships over the last 12 months.

The SMMT has revised its forecast for 2021 as a result of the increase and expects to record 1.86 million registrations by the end of 2021, which would be a 14 per cent year-on-year increase. It's worth noting, though, this would still be 20 per cent down on the average of 2.3m registrations a year recorded between 2010 and 2019.

There was a substantial rise in registrations across all car segments, with diesel cars — which have seen increasingly lower numbers in recent years — recording a jump in demand of 1199 per cent.


Plug-in hybrids also saw a huge increase across the board, accounting for over one in eight vehicles registered. In fact, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) were more popular than pure electric vehicles (EVs) — likely due to cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant, which mean EVs costing more than £35,000 are now no longer eligible for Government-backed incentives.

Mild hybrid petrol vehicles increased by 17,000 per cent, while full hybrids rose by 24,000 per cent year-on-year. EVs recorded a more subtle 556 per cent year-on-year rise.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “After one of the darkest years in automotive history, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A full recovery for the sector is still some way off, but with showrooms open and consumers able to test drive the latest, cleanest models, the industry can begin to rebuild.

Market confidence is improving, and we now expect to finish the year in a slightly better position than anticipated in February, largely thanks to the more upbeat business and consumer confidence created by the successful vaccine rollout.”


Rob Yeomans    on 7 May 2021

Is the modest increase in EV sales due to availability?

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