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UK April 2020: COVID-19 spread crushes market down -97.3% to lowest month since February 1946

The Jaguar i-Pace ranks #2 in the UK in April. Picture

As we predicted a month ago based on COVID-19 infection rates, the nation-wide lockdown, implemented later than most European nations (on March 23), was extended and covered the entire month of April with all car dealerships in the country closed. As a result the UK new car market vanishes at -97.3% year-on-year to just 4.321 units vs. 161.064 in April 2019 and 254.684 last month in March, pulling the year-to-date volume down -43.4% to 487.878. April 2020 marks the lowest monthly sales volume in the UK in over 74 years: since February 1946 (4.044 units). The addition of the UK means that April European sales for 14 markets including all Top 6 countries bar Germany are down -88% year-on-year to just 101.600 units. According to data by Johns Hopkins University, the UK is currently 4th in the world for COVID-19 infections (191.832) and 3rd for deaths (28.809), but based on latest growth rates it is headed within the next ten days towards the 2nd rank for both tallies below only the USA (currently at 1.180.634 infections and 68.934 deaths). This means the easing of restrictions will only be progressive throughout May at best, which in turns indicates the UK new car market won’t realistically recover until June at the earliest. SMMT currently forecasts a Full Year 2020 down -27% to 1.68m units which would be the lowest annual figure since 1992.

UK April registrations 2004-2020. Source SMMT

Despite showrooms being closed all month, carmakers managed to support key workers, critical companies and frontline services with fleet sales. Service and repair workshops remained open in order to keep key services, goods and people moving safely across the country. Indeed fleet registrations (-96.6%) amount to 3.090 for the month or 71.5% share vs. 55.9% in April 2019, while private sales (-98.7%) are down to 871 and 20.2% share vs. 42.1% and business deliveries (-88.3%) drop to 360 and 8.3% share vs. 1.9% a year ago. Year-to-date, fleet sales are off -43.9% to 249.338 and 51.1% share vs. 51.5% over the same period in 2019, private sales fall -42.6% to 228.905 and 46.9% vs. 46.2% and business sales drop -50.6% to 9.635 and 2% share vs. 2.3% in 2019.

The Tesla Model 3 is the best-selling vehicle in the UK in April.

If sales of petrol vehicles fall -98.5% to 1.553 and 35.9% share vs. 62.8% in April 2019, the hero segment of the month is without a doubt EV sales down just -9.7% to 1.374 for a stellar 31.8% share vs. just 0.9% a year ago, as some pre-ordered deliveries of the latest premium models were able to be fulfilled (see further down). Diesel vehicles sink -97.6% to 1.079 and 25% share vs. 28.1%, PHEVs are down -95.1% to 95 and HEVs down -99.3% to 48. YTD, petrol is down -47.5% to 293.562 and 60.2% share vs. 64.9% in 2019, diesel down -603% to 92.498 and 19% vs. 27%, EV up a spectacular 161.1% to 19.630 and 4% vs. 0.9%, PHEV up 31% to 13.757 and 2.8% vs. 1.2% and HEV down -13.9% to 28.438 and 5.8% vs. 3.8%.

First UK Top 10 finish for the Peugeot Rifter.

As it is also the case for similarly hit markets such as Italy (-97.5%), Spain (-96.5%) and France (-88.8%), with such small volumes brands and models rankings don’t hold much significance and are anecdotal at best. Tesla is estimated to take the lead of the UK brands ranking in April with a gargantuan 17.6% share and the Model 3 alone sells more than any other brand this month. Vauxhall (-95.5%) is up 7 spots on March to #2 and 11.1% share, its highest since July 2016. Jaguar (-84.8%) is up 16 to land on the third step of the podium with a surreal 9.2% share, obviously ranking and share records at home for the British luxury brand. Ford (-98.3%) is down to #4 above Mercedes (-97.8%), BMW (-98.1%) and last month’s leader Volkswagen (-98.6%). Peugeot (-96.7%), Skoda (-96.9%) and Seat (-96.6%) break into the Top 10, while further down Ssangyong (-60.2%), Alpine (-87.5%), Abarth (-91.6%), Alfa Romeo (-92.9%) and Smart (-94.6%) are the only additional brands losing less than 95% year-on-year.

The last time the Ford Fiesta didn’t make the UK Top 10, it looked like this.

As expected in these tumultuous times, the April Top 10 models are a complete novelty. The Tesla Model 3 soars to the overall UK pole position, eclipsing its previous best 3rd place hit last August and marking a fourth Top 10 finish in the past 9 months. The Jaguar i-Pace accounts for 93% of the brand’s volume for the month and shoots up to a stunning 2nd place overall. Only two YTD Top 10 nameplates are in the April Top 10: the Vauxhall Corsa (-90.3%) at #3 and the Mercedes A-Class (-98%) at #8. Shockingly, the Ford Fiesta (-99%) falls outside the monthly UK Top 10 for what is likely to be the first time in over 40 years (since 1979) with our monthly records showing a previous low of #8 in February 2005. For its part the VW Golf is outside the UK Top 10 for only the third time in the past 16 years after March 2004 and September 2018. Apart from the Seat Leon (#7) lodging its 2nd ever Top 10 finish after August 2018 (#6), all other Top 10 models are new to this level, with the Vauxhall Crossland X, Ford Tourneo Custom, Peugeot Rifter, Nissan Leaf and Peugeot 308 enjoying a lap of honour unlikely to be replicated any time soon.

Previous month: UK March 2020: VW and Golf repeat at #1 in market down -44.4%

One year ago: UK April 2019: Hyundai Tucson snaps first Top 10 in market down -4.1%

Full April 2020 Top 40 All-brands and Top 10 models below.

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