European new car sales surged to 1.34 million cars in April, representing a 9% increase compared with the same month in 2017 and a stark contrast to the 5.2% decline seen in March.
The UK contributed to the growth with its 10.4% boost in new car sales, which was helped by two additional buying days in April and changes to vehicle excise duty. Europe’s biggest car buyer, Germany, recorded an 8% growth in registrations and there was an 8.9% increase in the French market.
“April 2018 was an abnormal month, because many unusual factors helped to accelerate growth,” Felipe Munoz, a global car market analyst at JATO said. “However, these results show that there’s a positive mood among both consumers and car makers, as more models hit the market and more alternatives to diesel cars become available.”
Of the 27 European markets, only Switzerland experienced a decrease in sales during April, with sales there down by 4.8% compared with April 2017. The Swiss market is down 2.3% down for the year to date. Despite the UK's resurgence, it is still 8.8% down for the year to date.
Despite the overall growth enjoyed across the continent, demand for diesel cars continued to tumble. European registrations of new oil-burners were down by 13.2% to 453,500 units. In terms of market share according to fuel type, diesel now has a 36.7% share.
By contrast, petrol car sales grew by 53.5% to 692,300 units, giving the fuel type a market share of 56.1%. Petrol car sales growth recently contributed to the first growth in car CO2 output since records began.
Alternative fuelled vehicles - chiefly hybrids and electric vehicles – continued to sell in larger numbers, however, with registrations up by 53.5%. Although this still leaves the segment representing just 5.5% of total sales. Hybrid cars were the most popular of the class, with 41,200 registrations, while 13,500 were for plug-in hybrids and 13,000 for all-electric models.
SUVs continued to take hold of the market in April, ranking as the top-selling segment in 24 of Europe’s 27 markets. SUVs now account for 33.3% of the new market share, up from 21.4% just three years earlier.
The most popular car in Europe during April, however, was the Volkswagen Golf, with 39,356 registrations, while its new sibling, the T-Roc SUV, was the most sought-after market newcomer with 12,950 registrations. British buyers continued to demand the Ford Fiesta, with registrations for that car totalling 7811 here in April.