New car sales in the UK increased for the first time in a year in April, but demand for diesel models continues to be in freefall.
The sale of 168,000 cars across the month, a 10% rise on March, was helped in part by the cold weather in the previous reporting period pushing deliveries into April, and by Easter giving dealers two extra days to sell, the industry said.
Drivers are still turning away from diesel cars, which face the looming threat of city pollution charges across Europe as sales fell by a quarter, to 51,377.
In Scotland sales were only up slightly, by around 3.41%. However dealers in the Highlands and Grampian performed well with new car sales increasing by almost a quarter at 24.2% and 22.4% respectively.
Strathclyde was the only region in the country to report a downward trend with new car sales falling by almost 10%, despite being the area with the highest number of new car sales.
Last night, Tom Higgins, general sales manager at Volkswagen Aberdeen said the recovering oil price had helped the firm to enjoy a really successful first quarter.
He said: “Oil and gas is like a barometer in Aberdeen. When the oil price is down many industries are effected including the car sector. And while things are still challenging there appears to be some green shoots of recovery around the local economy which has been reflected in new car sales.
“For Volkswagen we have also bene helped by the release of the new Polo and the Tiguan – the company’s first compact SUV. This has allowed us to compete for the first time in that market. Both cars have been exceptionally well received.
“Not only has April been a good month for us, we have been exceeding our targets every month since the start of the year, sometimes by up to 114%.”
Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association added: “There is no doubt that the rise in registrations in April is a welcome turn in fortunes for the industry at this time, we have experienced a significant increase in footfall over the last few weeks and obviously a good number of these enquiries have resulted in new vehicles being registered, particularly in the private sub-sector of the market.
“We continue to see a decline in the number of diesel engine cars going onto the road against the same period last year, however, we would still highlight that these vehicles are a significant improvement on the older Euro 4 units and should be considered as part of the solution for the improvement of air quality across our towns and cities.”
Vauxhall lead the top seller for manufacture with Ford and Volkswagen taking up second and third spot whilst the top three selling cars were Ford’s Fiesta, Vauxhall’s Mokka X and VW’s Polo.
The private sub-sector accounted for 54.79% of the registrations where as last year for the same period this was only 43.46%.