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London - British new car registrations slumped by 20 percent in April, the biggest year-on-year drop for over six years after record demand in March when customers brought forward purchases to avoid a tax hike, an industry body said on Thursday.

Sales fell 19.8 percent to 152 076 vehicles last month, traditionally a period when fewer vehicles are sold after a new licence plate series is issued in March, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

Demand in March was boosted to a record high as individuals and businesses in Europe's second biggest autos market sought to avoid paying an increase in excise duty that came into force from April 1 for the most polluting vehicles.

Year-to-date registrations are up 1.1 percent, despite forecasts that demand would fall by at least 5 percent this year due to Brexit and after consecutive record performances.

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The SMMT said it expected demand to stabilise over the rest of the year.