2020 (April) Britain: Best-Selling Car Brands and Models

In April 2020, the British new car market collapsed by 97.3%. Tesla and the Model 3 were the top-selling car brand and model in the UK.

The Jaguar I Pace was the second-most-popular car model in the UK in April 2020.

New passenger vehicle registrations in the UK contracted by 97.3% in April 2020 to only 4,321 cars — the lowest number of cars sold in the UK in a calendar month since February 1946. Tesla was the best-selling car brand in the UK in April 2020 followed by Vauxhall, Jaguar, and Ford. The Model 3 was the top-selling car model in Britain followed by the Jaguar I-Pace and Vauxhall Corsa. The SMMT reduced its outlook for the British new car market in 2020 to only 1.68 million new passenger car registrations for the full year — the lowest since 1992.

British New Car Market in April 2020

New car registrations in the United Kingdom declined -97.3% in April 2020, according to car sales data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The decline was the steepest of modern times, and is in line with similar falls across Europe, with France -88.8% down and the Italian market falling -97.5% in April.

April car sales registrations in the UK 2004 to 2020

Just 4,321 new cars were registered in Britain in April 2020, some 156,743 fewer than in April 2019, with many delivered to key workers and front line public services and companies. This marked a record low for the new car market as the coronavirus pandemic forced Britain into lockdown for the entire month, with showrooms closed and car buyers housebound. The British new car market was last smaller in a single month in February 1946 when only 4,044 cars were registered.

April 2020 car sales by private fleet and business sales

Fleet orders represented by far the bulk of the British car market in April 2020, taking 71.5% market share, equivalent to 3,090 units, while private buyers registered just 871 cars – a year on year fall of –98.7%.

British Car Sales in April 2020 by Fuel Type

New car sales in the UK in April 2020 and year-to-date 2020 by fuel type were as follows:

British car sales in April 2020 by fuel type

The distortion of the British new car market in April 2020 was reflected across all segments and fuel types, with the numbers of new petrol and diesel cars joining UK roads down -98.5% and -97.6% respectively, as plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) declined -95.1% and hybrids (HEVs) -99.3%.

In contrast, the niche battery electric vehicles sector saw a smaller percentage decrease of -9.7%, as some pre-ordered deliveries of the latest premium models were able to be fulfilled. This gave battery-electric vehicles a 32% share of the British new car market in April 2020 compared to 0.9% for the first four months of 2020.

British New Car Market Outlook 2020

The SMMT downgraded its latest new car market forecast for 2020 to just 1.68 million registrations in the UK in 2020. This puts the sector on course to record its worst performance since 1992’s 1.59 million units, below the levels seen during the financial crisis and some -27% lower than the 2.31 million new cars registered in 2019. 

Despite this, the BEV market is expected to double in 2020 to 77,300 units as new model introductions bolster the market. DriveElectric previously predicted an electric car market of 100,000 in Britain in 2020.

Best-Selling Car Brands in Britain in April 2020

The ten top-selling car brands in Britain in April 2020 according to the SMMT were:

April 2020% ShareApril 2019% Share% Change
Other Imports82219.022760.17197.83

The actual numbers of cars sold in Britain in April 2020 were so low that for year-to-date 2020 figures the 2020/Q1 figures could be used.

Tesla was the top-selling car brand in the UK in April 2020. The exact number is not clear from the SMMT numbers, as Tesla is still listed among “other imports”.

Vauxhall regained second place — the market share of Vauxhall was surprisingly close to the 11.22% share Ford had in April 2019.

Excluding Tesla, Jaguar was one of the top performers in Britain in April 2020 with sales down by less than 95%. The best-performing brand listed separately was actually Ssangyong with sales down only 60% to 45 units.

Best-Selling Car Models in Britain in April 2020

The ten top-selling car models in Britain in April 2020 and year-to-date 2020 according to the SMMT were:

The Tesla Model 3 was the surprise top-selling car in Britain in April 2020. Tesla was able to deliver pre-ordered cars and the possibility of by-passing dealerships that were closed the whole month. The Jaguar I-Pace similarly benefited from pre-orders.

The Vauxhall Corsa and Mercedes-Benz A-Class were the only regulars in the April 2020 top-ten list. The year-to-date top-ten list remained unchanged from the 2020/Q1 list — Ford Fiesta sales increased by only 55 cars and VW Golf sales by 40 in April 2020.

British car production in April 2020 fell by 99.7% to a record low – only 197 passenger vehicles were produced in Britain.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.