Currently reading: New car sales fall in April, plug-in hybrids hardest hit
April figures reflect government's decision to axe incentives for plug-in hybrids and supply issues
Rachel Burgess
2 mins read
7 May 2019

Sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles fell by 34.3% in April, a result of the government’s move to abolish its plug-in car grant for everything but pure electric models as well as supply issues.

The figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that, year-to-date, plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations have dropped by 20.4%.

The government announced in October last year that it would, with immediate effect, pull support for plug-in hybrid vehicles and decrease the subsidy for electric vehicles from £4500 to £3500. However, it has taken a few months for existing orders to be fulfilled to see the full effect of the grant’s removal.

An SMMT spokesman said: “Manufacturers are investing heavily to bring ultra-low and zero-emission cars to market, with some 40 plug-in models now available in showrooms, and over 20 more expected to arrive in 2019. 

“However, if this still emerging sector is to reach meaningful levels, measures and incentives that build business and consumer confidence will be vital.”

Another factor affecting plug-in hybrid vehicle uptake is supply issues. The introduction of WLTP testing last September led most plug-in hybrids to be taken off sale, as they were not compliant. A new generation of plug-in hybrids including from Audi and BMW will arrive over the next few months. 

Overall, alternatively fuelled vehicle registrations grew by 12.7%, with 10,254 cars sold. Petrol-electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1% to 6810 units. Electric cars also saw a strong uplift, from 929 to 1517 units, accounting for 0.9% of the market.

Across the entire new car market, registrations decreased by 4.1% to 161,604 units.

Private registrations fell by 10.3% while fleet demand remained steady, growing 2.9%. Diesel car sales, which have been hit hard over the past 18 months, typically seeing declines of a third, have fallen again but at a slower rate, down 9.4%. Petrol demand also dropped by 3%.

Demand for most vehicle segments decreased, with registrations of popular supermini and small family cars falling most significantly, down 14.1% and 10.6% respectively. Demand for lower-volume luxury saloons and sports cars rose.

The Ford Fiesta remained the top-selling car in the UK in April, followed by the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Mercedes A-Class.

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Autocar's guide to WLTP emissions testing 


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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Top-selling plug-in SUV gets major revisions to styling and suspension as Mitsubishi bids to keep its market advantage

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7 May 2019

  Might find some good deals, need to make money Garages, you don’t ask you don’t get, and let’s face it, whose to blame for this ongoing fiasco?

7 May 2019

Interesting to see the effect of the withdrawal of the plug in hybrid discount. Research has shown that hardly any owners of the Outlander PHEV ever plugged them in, so the taxpayer was basically subsidising someone to buy and run a 2 litre petrol model.

7 May 2019

The grants should also be aimed at small low polluting cars, try and promote these instead of massive suvs which always pollute more, as catnip says, these phevs are bought to beat the tax legislation and are apparently often used without ever making use of the electric capability. Standard self charging hybrids that use the hybrid to gain better efficiency from their respective ice power plant and low emission petrol/diesel small cars should get promoted. Not sure how though.

7 May 2019
The Tesla Model X is the only large SUV eligible for the £3.5k EV subsidy, and it's much less polluting than most ICE cars. So what's your beef? Range Rovers have never been eligible for the grant. And in any case, hardly anyone in the UK buys "massive" SUVs. When was the last time you saw a Ford Expedition, BMW X7, Mercedes GLS, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, Lincoln Navigator, Chevy Surburban/ Tahoe, Infiniti QX80, Cadillac Escalade or GMC Yukon on British roads? The fact is... you haven't. Because most people here are terrified of anything bigger than a bog-standard Mondeo!


7 May 2019
Rollocks wrote:

The Tesla Model X is the only large SUV eligible for the £3.5k EV subsidy, and it's much less polluting than most ICE cars. So what's your beef? Range Rovers have never been eligible for the grant. And in any case, hardly anyone in the UK buys "massive" SUVs. ...

I think you'll find the Outlander is considered a "large SUV" by some. Of course in the US its probably a "compact". Certainly not worthy of a grant!

7 May 2019

Always a bit undecided on PHEVs, afterall why have two engines when one will do?, Why add £3,000 of batteries. electric motors, weight, space problems, complex tech etc to save £600 a year. 

Always was a tax dodge that's been caught out.

7 May 2019
I agree. Nobody ever bought a PHEV because of it's lightness, resolved handling and increased load carrying capabilities - it was all about the bottom line, now that bottom line doesn't look so good it's flaws have been exposed.

7 May 2019

I rarely comment on Autocar but this topic and some of the ill informed comments need reply to.

I own a Kia Niro PHEV.  I aqcuired this prior to the government grant being dropped but frankly given I bought 6 month old second hand car having started looking for a BEV, I would have gone ahead anyway as I liked the car because of space, comfort, equipment.  As this is a personal buy I did not get much of a reduction of car tax and unlike probably some business users this was not about a low BIK !

Contrary to comments made I do charge my car regularly so that I can take advantage of the 30+ mile EV range for local journeys (I have a charge point in my garage).  It also means that when I opt for using its Hybrid Mode I can take advantage of the additional range a full battery gives me. E.g yesterday I drove to the south coast and recorded 90+ mpg.  This a lot better than any Diesel / Petrol car of a similar size (in fact probably most cars on the road)

Of course a PHEV is a compromise.  Two engines/motors is overkill.  I for one will be getting a BEV next time but that is not because a PHEV is bad it is just that a car with a long electric range would be even better



7 May 2019
If you have an easily accessed garage with power, you are fine. But a huge proportion of the population don't.

7 May 2019

I regularly see plug in hybrids on charge  using the public charging network in central Milton Keynes. There is a good charging infrastructure there so I can't help thinking that has something to do with it.


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