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It’s hardly a shock that the COVID-19 crisis and global lockdown has meant fewer cars are being sold. What’s surprising is that any have been shifted at all, really.

The numbers are in, and in the UK during April 2020, 4,321 new cars were registered. In the same month last year, Brits bought 161,064 new cars. That’s a drop of 97.3 per cent. Yowch.

Terrifying numbers, but also so unsurprising it’s barely a story. Sales of everything except hand sanitiser and Disney Plus subscriptions have nosedived. The more interesting nugget is who’s managed to do well.

The answer is… Tesla. Because Tesla doesn’t really have dealerships and concentrates on selling cars online and having them delivered to your door, it’s been able to shift more units than the conventional big-hitters of Ford, Vauxhall and VW.

So much so, the Tesla Model 3 was actually the UK’s most popular car in April, topping the charts with 658 sold. The next-most popular was Jaguar’s electric I-Pace, with 367 sold. Even the humble Nissan Leaf climbed to ninth in the table, having sold, erm, 72 examples.

For context, back in 2019, Ford could bank on shifting around 6,000 Fiestas every month in order to stay atop the sales totals. That’s just one model, remember.

Of course, manufacturers will be hoping that easing restrictions will allow customers back out to order cars and get the sales rising again, though supply chain problems and the damage to the economy and household earnings could dent that optimism. Industry body the SMMT has already warned UK car sales in 2020 will be at their lowest since 1992, making the financial crisis aftermath of 2008 look like small potatoes.

What’s interesting is how demand for plug-in hybrid and electric cars may continue to surge as new incentives for running EVs as company cars take effect in the UK this spring, and whether an indirect result of this crisis may well be more car marques moving to online ordering rather than bricks-and-mortar dealerships.

In the meantime, Tesla has claimed the top sales spot in the UK, and the likes of the Ford Fiesta and VW Golf aren’t even in the top 10. Add that to the list of sentences we didn’t bet on writing this year…

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