THAT distant noise is the sound of Elon Musk shrieking with elation. Britain’s best-selling new car, according to the latest figures, is the Tesla Model 3.
America’s zero emissions 5-Series rival has finally managed to unseat all the usual candidates – Fiesta, Golf, Corsa, and so on – at the sharp end of the new car sales chart, with Tesla shifting more than 2.5 times as many of them as Vauxhall managed to flog Corsas. It’s good news for Jaguar, too, with the iPace – a European Car of the Year winner, don’t forget – managing to notch up second place.
Or rather, it would be good news if it weren’t for the wider context. The latest figures are for April 2020, when car showrooms were ordered by the government to lock their doors in response to the nationwide coronavirus outbreak. Having seen that new car sales dropped 44 per cent in March, a mate who’s in charge of one of the new car websites joined me in reckoning that April’s figures would be nearer an 80-85 per cent drop. Turns out we were both wrong – the official figure, released yesterday, shows that overall new car sales in the UK were down 97.3%.
The fleet market’s a little bit better, admittedly, but it’s the big boys in the new car market that have taken the biggest hits. Year-on-year Ford’s sales in April were down by 98.3 per cent, VW by 98.6 per cent and Vauxhall’s by a mere 95 per cent, which helps explain the bizarre scenario where the UK’s favourite family hatchbacks are clobbered in the new car sales chart by a Tesla. It only took 658 people – presumably, folk keen to outgun Porsches from the traffic lights, thanks to clever electric car trickery – to stick the Model 3 in the UK sales top spot. The Ford Fiesta, on the other hand, has managed to find 15,962 homes since the start of the year, making it a clear victor when it comes to overall sales for 2020 so far.
So, should Uncle Henry worry about some upstart from California de-throning the Fiesta? Not even slightly. The current situation is undoubtedly and unprecedently painful for anyone at the helm of a new car showroom, but if what I’ve been seeing in the world of classic cars – where auctioneers are still managing to sell the same 60-70 per cent of their cars, even when nobody can drive them first and sales are being conducted online – is true, then I reckon the new car market will, eventually bounce back too. All that appetite for new Audis, Nissan Qashqais and so on – it’s not dead. It’s just in the freezer, waiting for Boris to stick it in the microwave when he deems the time is right.
The fact that 658 of you were happy to fork out £43,000 on an all-electric executive saloon in the middle of a lockdown says it all. Britain’s best-selling new car, briefly, is a Tesla. You couldn’t make it up…
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly