Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) outsold all fuel types except petrol cars in April 2020 as the new car market saw sales plummet -97.3%.
Only 4,321 new cars were registered in April, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), coming in a 156,743 less than the same month a year prior.
Of these, 1,374 were BEVs, making it the second most popular vehicle type and taking home 31.8% of the market, following closely behind petrol (1,553).
Diesel, however, saw 1,079 registrations, marking the first occasion BEVs have outperformed either petrol or diesel cars in new sales.
Whilst sales of BEVs only dropped 9.7% in the month, sales of petrol and diesel cars fell 98.5% and 97.6% respectively due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for BEVs to pip diesel to the post.
The SMMT is predicting that the BEV market will double in 2020 to 77,300 units as a result of new models bolstering the market. In April, the Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling model across all the fuel types, followed by the Jaguar I-Pace. The Nissan Leaf also made an appearance in the top ten as the eighth best selling car of April 2020.
The Tesla Model 3 also had a marked effect on car sales in March 2020, with sales of BEVs almost tripling in the month to 11,694, a feat in part attributed to the release of the new Tesla. However, changes to the Benefit in Kind tax would also have had an effect, providing a strong financial incentive for fleets.
The SMMT went on to detail that the majority of orders in April – 71.5%, or 3,090 vehicles – were for fleets while private buyers bought just 871 vehicles, a year-on-year fall of -98.7%.
The decline in new sales overall is in line with similar falls across Europe, the SMMT said, with France -88.8% down and the Italian market falling -97.5% in April.
It has downgraded its new car market forecast for 2020 to 1.68 million registrations, a drop from its previous revision last month to 1.73 million registrations.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With the UK’s showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market’s worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising. These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.”