A 2.5% fall in private new car registrations in April has been offset by increased activity in the fleet and business markets.
New car registrations in the UK made a modest gain of 2.0% overall in April, according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures.
The market growth in April was led by the fleet and business sectors, with respective increases of 6.1% and 2.8%.
A total of 189,505 cars were registered in the month, the most in April since 2003, when 194,312 new vehicles found homes.
April’s performance puts registrations for 2016 to date 4.4% up on the same period last year. It follows a bumper March in which more than 518,000 cars were registered – the second-biggest month on record. Demand for cars has been running at a high level, after 43 consecutive months of growth in the market led to an all-time high of 2.63 million car registrations in 2015.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “After such a strong March, April’s steadier performance was to be anticipated, and is in line with our expectations for the year.
"Consumer confidence remains high as buyers continue to capitalise on attractive finance deals, although this could be affected by political and economic uncertainty in the coming months.”
Sue Robinson, National Franchised Dealer Association director, said: “Various factors such as inflation experiencing only a minor growth, interest rates held at 0.5% as well as low cost finance offers encouraged consumers to commit to buy new cars.
Richard Jones, managing director of lender Black Horse, said: “April’s figures continue the trend of growing sales for the industry, with continued low interest rates and manufacturer subsidisation remaining key drivers of this growth.”
Gerald Grimes, managing director at Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, said that continued low interest rates and the rise of alternative payment methods are fuelling growth in the industry. He said: “We saw a marked rise the number of people taking a loan to buy both used and new cars – a 12% increase month on month. This shows that the growth of car sales is being driven not only by a sustained period of low interest rates, but also the availability of alternative funding models.
"Consumers are now firmly in the driving seat and able to arrange their own finance 24/7 online to get the deal they want, when they want it."