Tesla is the best-selling car in UK – but the auto market is almost at zero

Sales of new cars in the largest European markets virtually stopped in April. Drops approaching almost one hundred percent were recorded in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Due to this, there are also interesting results among the best-selling cars. In the British Isles, Tesla Model 3 leads, in Germany, the American brand is the only one that has managed to improve year-on-year.

Already in March, results from some markets indicated that the spread of covid-19, which is also associated with the temporary closure of car showrooms or factories, will have a significant impact on new car sales. For example, in the Czech Republic alone, sales fell by a historically high 53.41 percent year on year in April alone, when 10,679 cars were sold. But some of Europe’s largest markets are even worse off.


In the United Kingdom, April was even the worst month in sales since February 1946. At that time, 4,044 new cars were sold, and this year the Association of Car Manufacturers and Dealers (SMMT) lists 4,321 newly sold passenger cars. Compared to April last year, when over 161,000 passenger cars found owners, this means a year-on-year decline of 97.3 percent. “With the showrooms closed throughout April, the worst selling result in a long time is hardly surprising,” commented SMMT CEO Mike Hawes.

He also noted that the restart of the automotive sector, ie not only sales but also production, will be one of the most important elements in the recovery of the entire British economy. The automotive industry is the largest British exporter. There are also growing demands for car dealerships to be among the first businesses to be opened by the British government.

However, the collapse of the British market also brought several interesting things. For example, electric cars (1,374 units) outpaced diesel cars (1,079 units) in April sales. Only petrol cars with 1553 units sold better. It is the same with the statistics of the best-selling cars. In April, it dominated the Tesla Model 3 with 658 units (Tesla is also the best-selling carmaker). The second place among the models was occupied by an electric car, the Jaguar I-Pace with 367 units. The third is the Vauxhall (Opel) Corsa with 264 units.

In the first four months of 2020, 487,878 new cars were sold in the United Kingdom so far, 43.4 percent less than in the same period last year. And these numbers also affect the SMMT outlook for the whole of this year. According to current assumptions, 1.68 million cars should be sold in 2020, which would be the worst result since 1992. Last year, 2.31 million cars were sold. Nevertheless, there is a part of the market that will grow this year as well. Sales of electric cars should double to 77,300 units on the islands this year.

Apart from Great Britain, Tesla was also relatively successful in Germany in April. According to the local Federal Office for Motor Vehicles, it is the only one of all brands that has grown year-on-year. And even by 10.4 percent. The explanation, as in the case of the British success of the Model 3, can be partly found in the fact that Tesla sells its cars online for a long time, it does not have a classic dealership. The closure of car showrooms did not affect her relatively well, while many other manufacturers had to adjust their sales channels.

The German government allowed dealers to start opening after April 20, yet, according to Reinhard Zirpel, president of the Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, this had a negligible effect on sales. According to him, in the short term, a package of support measures will be inevitable for the new car market. There is talk mainly of reintroducing scrapping fees.


Sales in the largest European market fell by 61.1 percent year on year to 120,840 units in April. German carmakers jointly recorded a double-digit decrease in registrations, the most in the case of Smart by 94.1 percent. Volkswagen lost almost 64 percent in April, yet with 20,741 it keeps the statistics of the best-selling manufacturers. Despite the 10% growth, the aforementioned Tesla recorded 635 cars sold. Despite a 57 percent drop, Škoda became the most popular imported brand with 7227 cars in April.

A total of 822,202 new cars were sold in Germany in the first four months of the year, which is 31 percent less than in 2019.

In France, April car sales fell by 88.8 percent. A total of 20,997 vehicles found a new owner, while the dealership was closed in April and their reopening is planned from today, ie May 11. Over eighty percent of all cars sold were produced by the French groups PSA (Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel) and Renault (Renault, Dacia and Alpine). The market leader was Renault in 5910 units in April.

Monthly Electric Vehicle registrations in France, January 2019 to April 2020

In the first four months of 2020, 385,676 cars were sold in France, 48 percent less than in 2019. The best-selling model is the Peugeot 208, followed by the Renault Clio and Citroën C3. Of interest is the sixth place electric Renault Zoe.

While Germany and France have at least tens of thousands of cars sold, Italy and Spain are similar to the United Kingdom. In Italy, 4,279 passenger cars were sold in April, a drop of 97.5 percent year on year. Also on the Italian Peninsula, dealerships of individual manufacturers were closed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their opening was made possible from last Monday, May 4.

Nevertheless, the president of the Italian association of car importers Michele Crisci fears that many dealers may not survive the crisis despite the relaxation of measures. They had been without income for about two months. Crisci also called on the Italian government to take support measures for the automotive sector. And also for cars with less than 95 g CO2 per kilometer. So far, only cars with less than 60 grams have support.

The vast majority of carmakers in Italy fell by more than 90 percent, while Fiat, with 969 cars sold, lost off 96.73 percent year on year. One of the few exceptions is Tesla, which with 104 deliveries fell to only about half of its April sales last April. In year-on-year statistics, the American producer of electric cars even, as one of the two manufacturers, improved by about half, recording sales of 884 cars.

In April, electric cars in Italy recorded a market share of 11.6 percent for 500 units sold. This was mainly caused by Renault, which at the end of April registered 317 Zoe models for its own ES Mobility rental shop. In April, Zoe became the second best-selling car in Italy, right after the Fiat Panda. In the first four months of the year, the Italian market fell by more than fifty percent to 351,611 cars sold.


The passenger car market in Spain fell by 96.5 percent to 4,163 cars. This is the worst result in the last 20 years, which was again mainly due to closed dealerships. The reopening should take place today, on 11 May. For example, the director of communications of the Association of Car and Truck Manufacturers in Spain, Noemi Navas, calls for stronger support for the purchase of a new, and therefore safer and, above all, greener car at the expense of older models.

He also justifies this by saying that people currently use cars more for travel, so it is important to ensure that travel is as safe and clean as possible. Opel became the best-selling brand in April with 1,052 cars sold, and its small Crossland X SUV then dominates the best-selling models with 430 units. Overall, in the first four months, the Spanish market recorded 222,866 cars sold, 48.9 percent less than last year.

However, there are markets where sales are even worse than in the five largest European ones. In India, for example, not a single car was sold last month. Last April, only market leader Maruti Suzuki sold 131,385 cars. Everything is again the work of mainly closed dealerships.

In China, on the other hand, the car market from the coronavirus pandemic appears to have been slowly faltering. According to Automotive News Europe, two million cars reached dealers in April, which is 0.9 percent more than in 2019. This also means, among other things, that the Chinese car market grew year-on-year for the first time in almost two years.

In America, for the first time ever, pick-ups overtook classic passenger cars in terms of sales numbers. At least according to data from Autodata Corp., which deals with market research. According to them, about 17,000 more pick-ups were sold in April than cars. Exact numbers for the American market are not yet available, but the data of individual car manufacturers still suggest that sales fell sharply in April, with some manufacturers sales declining even more than half.

Author: Nabeel K
Email: nabeel@wheelsjoint.com



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