The year’s busiest month for car registrations could be followed by a significant fall if the UK follows the pattern of April results already recorded by key European markets.
German car registrations fell by around 8% to around 290,000, French registrations saw a 6% decline to 171,879 and the Republic of Ireland saw its registrations plummet by 24% year-on-year to 7,865 during the month.
Both Germany and France remained ahead of last year’s registrations for the first four months of 2016, however, by 2.5% (1.13 million) and 1.96% (712,933).
The Republic of Ireland’s registrations for the same period now stand at 83,831 for the first four months of 2017 – a drop of 10% on the same period last year.
Last month the SMMT reported that the market had risen by 8.4%, with 562,337 registrations making it a record Q1 for the UK market.
A total of 820,016 new cars were driven off forecourts in the first three months of 2017, up 6.2% on the same period in 2016.
As well as being a plate-change month, the results were bolstered by VED road tax changes which saw consumers keen to make purchases to avoid larger annual bills.
Many retailers also advertised the fact that they were investing significantly in pre-reg stock to assist customers in their bid to beat the VED hikes.
The scenario could translate in to a heightened fall, on paper, when April’s SMMT figures are published tomorrow (May 5th), as chief executive Mike Hawes alluded to in his comments after last month’s success.
Hawes said: “These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers and businesses reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March, especially those ultra-low emission vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee.
“This bumper performance probably means we will see a slowdown in April, exacerbated by the fact there are fewer selling days this year given Easter timing.
“Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we still expect the market to cool only slightly given broader political uncertainties as there are still attractive deals on offer.”
In the US, the automotive industry experienced its fourth consecutive month of declining sales in April.
Industry wide, manufacturers saw 8.3% fewer registrations than in March, and 4.7% fewer than in April 2016, according to Autodata.
The seasonally-adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales fell to 16.88 million units, from the record 17.4 million last April.