U.K. car sales fell sharply in April, according to data released by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, although output for the year to date remained at its highest level since the year 2000.

Automobile production fell by 18.2% in April, when compared with the same period one year ago, due to a late Easter public holiday and some unplanned changes in production that hit the industry.

Demand for new cars surged in the previous month, March, as buyers pulled forward their purchases in order to get around changes to emissions tax rates that apply to all cars produced from April 2017 onward.

Total production came in at 122,116 cars in April while, for the year to date, output was 593,796. The majority of the cars made in the U.K., around 76%, were shipped abroad during the month.

"Overall, British car manufacturing remains in good health with the production outlook still very positive and significant new models due to go into UK production shortly," said SMMT CEO Mike Hawes.

European auto stocks were mixed during early trading, with Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) - Get Report recovering some of Wednesday's emissions related losses, while German carmakers Daimler (DDAIF) , Volkswagen (VLKAY) and BMW (BMWYY) all posted losses. The Stoxx Europe Auto & Parts index quoted at 572.5, down 0.57% from Wednesday's close.

The SMMT also doubled-down on its effort to lobby the U.K. government for protection from tariffs ahead of the June general election and the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

It drew attention to the £71 billion ($92.2 million) of revenue produced by the industry and has released a "position paper", which sets out the actions that the industry body wants to see from government during the years leading up to 2022.

"We need the next government to safeguard the conditions that have made us globally competitive, keeping us open and trading and delivering an ambitious industrial strategy for our sector," Hawes said.