The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car in the UK last month, as new car sales dropped 97% as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 658 Model 3s were sold in April, accounting for around 15% of all new car sales. With dealerships closed and customers adhering to the nationwide stay-at-home directive, just 4321 new cars were sold in April, down from 161,064 in the same period last year.
The Model 3 led an unusual list of the 10 best-selling cars in April, with the UK's traditional biggest sellers largely absent. The list featured both electric cars such as the Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace, and MPVs including the Ford Tourneo Custom and Peugeot Rifter.
This is the second time Tesla’s entry-level electric saloon has appeared in the UK top 10, it having been a strong seller here since its arrival in early 2019. In February 2019, it became Europe’s best-selling electric vehicle in its first full month on sale outside the US, but it still accounts for just 0.9% sales in the UK so far this year.
The model's releatively high sales can be attributed to the completion of online pre-orders made on Tesla's website before the lockdown. A number of sales are also likely to be to company fleets - which the SMMT says accounted for 70% of all sales in April. Recent changes introduced to the UK vehicle excise duty system saw EVs become exempt from benefit-in-kind tax, thus enhancing their appeal for fleet buyers.
That’s backed up by sales figures for Jaguar’s electric I-Pace SUV, which was the second-highest seller in April with 367 units sold. Earlier this year, the British marque reached a deal to supply 700 I-Paces to the NHS for use by healthcare workers, with the first expected to arrive in April.
The SMMT expects electric vehicles to perform relatively strongly in 2020, bucking an overall industry decline to double their market share by the end of the year with an estimated 77,300 units sold.
The Vauxhall Corsa placed third in the list, with 264 units sold. In March, the supermini came in at number six with more than 20 times as many sales. Vauxhall’s larger Crossland X crossover placed fourth with 143 units sold.
Ford’s Tourneo Custom MPV and its Peugeot Rifter rival were next, with 108 and 94 sales respectively, followed by the Seat Leon with 80 sales, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class with 72 and the Nissan Leaf with 72. Rounding off the top 10 was Peugeot’s 308 hatchback, with 67 sales.