The UK Posted the Weirdest New Car Sales Chart We’ve Maybe Ever Seen

For starters, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van was the overall best-seller in April.

It’s no secret that auto sales have ground to a near-complete halt—unless you’re Ferrari, of course—as the pandemic keeps people confined in their homes. Last month, a grand total of zero new vehicles were sold in India, and most automakers have seen their figures fall off a cliff here in the United States, even after offering an unprecedented number of discounts and financing deals. It’s not surprising, then, that the picture in Britain is equally as bleak. In April, new car sales dropped by over 97 percent there, but the real story is the vehicles that sold more than the rest.

Topping the chart was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, of which 814 were sold last month. To be clear, it beat the sales of every normal passenger car in the United Kingdom. This marks the first time that’s happened in 30 years (!!!).

 With all showrooms closed due to the pandemic, there were just 4,321 new vehicles registered last month. Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the last time car sales cratered like this was in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Even Ford, one of the nation’s best-selling brands, only managed to move 306 cars in April. That number represents a stunning turn of fate for the company, which had sold almost 16,000 Fiestas in 2020 before the world fell apart. In comparison, Mercedes-Benz only sold 5,000 Sprinter vans during the same time period, making the German company’s chart-topping April sales numbers even more impressive.


One bright spot is that electric cars remained popular in April, with demand for models like the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace growing faster than the supply. Tesla, for the first time in U.K. history, topped the passenger car sales chart by selling 658 cars. So many people placed orders for the car back in March 2016 that Tesla is still working through those orders today. Beyond that, the company’s contactless deliveries at customers’ homes are credited for boosting sales. That stands in sharp contrast to other manufacturers, many of which were unable to adapt and had to shutter their operations for the time being. 

The Jag I-Pace—a car not known for its high volume—came in second place with 367 units moved last month.

This is a grim story for Britain, but it’s hardly the only nation in Europe with sinking vehicle sales. France saw an 89 percent tumble as well, while the Italian vehicle market was bruised by a 98 percent drop. It’s impossible to know how long this crisis will continue, but it’s clear that the companies who make it through will emerge looking quite different than they did before the pandemic. Automakers are shedding staff and cutting production around the world, and some have even completely canceled plans to release new models.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another sales chart like this for a country that’s typically so fond of coupes and sedans.

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h/t: This is Money