Image: Diego Delso Image: Diego Delso

New car sales in the UK hit their highest level in the month for April for 13 years, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The SMMT said 189,505 new cars were registered last month, more than in any other April since 2003, when 194,312 new cars were purchased. It was a 2% rise on April in 2015.

As in March, the market growth in April was led by the fleet and business sectors, where respective increases of 6.1% and 2.8% counterbalanced a 2.5% fall in private registrations.

Meanwhile, demand for both petrol and diesel models remains high. Registrations of petrol cars increased 3.4% in April, while diesel saw a slight 0.6% decline. Following the trend set in the first three months of the year, uptake of alternative fuel vehicles jumped by more than a quarter as buyers looked to reduce emissions and running costs.

April’s performance puts registrations for 2016 to date 4.4% up on the same period last year. It follows a bumper March in which more than 518,000 cars were registered – the second-biggest month on record. Demand for cars has been running at a high level, after 43 consecutive months of growth in the market led to an all-time high of 2.63 million car registrations in 2015.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “After such a strong March, April’s steadier performance was to be anticipated, and is in line with our expectations for the year. Consumer confidence remains high as buyers continue to capitalise on attractive finance deals, although this could be affected by political and economic uncertainty in the coming months.”

Richard Jones, managing director at Black Horse, Lloyds Banking Group's motor finance provider, said: “April’s figures continue the trend of growing sales for the industry, with continued low interest rates and manufacturer subsidisation remaining key drivers of this growth. Alongside the new car activity, we anticipate working even more closely in partnership with our dealers in the coming weeks and months to help them quickly retail nearly new and low mileage car stocks with attractively structured finance offers.”