New car sales in Britain dived in April from a record high as motorists reacted to a tax overhaul that has ramped up prices, industry data showed Thursday.
Sales fell by 19.8 percent last month from a year earlier to 152,076 vehicles, industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said in a statement.
The April decline followed record-breaking growth in previous months as buyers brought forward purchases ahead of the tax-rule change, which came into force on April 1.
The rule change means that all new cars -- except for those with zero CO2 emissions -- are now subject to an annual flat-rate charge.
Research from the RAC roadside breakdown service indicates that most drivers purchasing new cars are now paying significantly more under the new regime.
"With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower," said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.
"We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases," he added.
Sales fell across the board, with diesel cars down 27.3 percent, petrol down 13.1 percent and hybrid and electric vehicles, which had skyrocketed in previous months, falling back 1.3 percent.
On a year-to-date basis, sales were still up 1.1 percent to 972,092 vehicles, thanks to a strong first quarter.
The best-selling car in Britain last month was the Ford Fiesta, followed by the Nissan Qashqai, with the Mercedes C-Class in third place.