Bottom line: Car sales in the UK saw a massive decline in April as Covid-19 containment efforts forced dealership closures throughout the country. With just 4,321 cars sold last month as compared to 161,064 units during the same period last year, Tesla and its direct sales model was able to capture over 15 percent of April's market share with 658 Model 3s sold.

When it comes to disrupting businesses, the auto industry is arguably among the worst hit by Covid-19. With manufacturers struggling to restart production lines, recent data for UK car sales by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal a record 97.3% decline in YoY sales as lockdown measures cause showrooms to shut down nationwide.

From the 4,321 new vehicles registered last month, a majority (71.5%) were fleet orders headed to frontline workers and organizations, while private buyers and businesses made for 20% and 8.3% of sales, respectively.

Amidst the sales decline deemed as the "steepest of modern times," Tesla became the top-selling automaker in April and sold 658 Model 3s, followed by 367 units of the Jaguar I-Pace. In addition to Tesla's direct sales model that bypasses the need for a dealership and customers placing online pre-orders before the lockdown came into effect, the fact that both top spots were held by electric cars was likely made possible after the UK government exempted the category from company-car tax last month.

The recent trend, though unpredictable and uncertain in the long-term, also pushed EVs towards a 34% market share in April, second only to 35.9% for petrol cars in terms of new UK vehicle registrations, and up by 161% YoY.

Several other European countries, including France, Spain, and Italy have recorded a similar decline of at least 90 percent in car sales and the UK's auto industry association has forecasted just 1.68 million new vehicle registrations for 2020.

"With the UK's showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market's worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising. These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector," said SMMT's Chief Executive Mike Hawes, who stressed on the need to safely restart this critical sector for the UK's economic revival.