New car registrations declined for the tenth month in a row by 7.4% to 137,746 units, although figures were ahead of industry expectations.
The new car market is 1.5% ahead of forecast according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and is on par with the 2010 market with scrappage volumes removed.
Despite the 10 months of decline, economic and supply chain uncertainty, the SMMT’s full year forecast is unchanged at 1.93 million units.
Fleet demand helped to boost registrations, up 6.5% in April, while diesel volumes also recorded strong growth.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: “New car registrations in April demonstrated continued stability in the marketplace, with demand remaining lower than in 2010, although slightly ahead of industry expectations.
“The coming months will remain challenging, but we do expect to see a return to growth in the second half of the year.”
The market is then expected to recover in 2012, back above two million units. However, there remains uncertainty over buyer confidence and from possible short-term supply constraints caused by the earthquake in Japan. SMMT forecasts the market to slow in quarter two, but then recover in quarter three.
Sue Robinson, director of the RMI National Franchised Dealers Association, said: "The April market has performed relatively well during a period that has seen a lot of disruption with a number of factors slowing the market.
"There have been a number of bank holidays which resulted in slow showroom traffic, although when consumers visited they did tend to buy. There has also been a knock on affect on supply after the disaster in Japan and there are still signs of a lack of consumer confidence. That said the results show that despite the conditions people are still out there visiting showrooms and purchasing vehicles.
"We anticipate much greater improvement to the market at the back end of the year which we believe will continue into 2012 when the market will be much stronger.”
Registrations over the first four months of 2011 have fallen 8.5% to 696,082 units. This represents a decline of 64,259 units. During the same four month period in 2010 over 100,000 cars were reportedly registered through the scrappage scheme.
Diesel cars represented 52.7% of the total market in April and have shown year-on-year growth in every month of 2011. The VW Golf was the best selling diesel in April. Alternatively fuelled car registrations rose by 48.1% in April.
The Ford Fiesta was the top selling car overall in the month and year-to-date. Registrations of small cars have generally fallen, again reflecting the impact of the scrappage scheme.
Registrations of dual purpose and MPV segment cars were amongst those showing strong growth in the month.