New car sales March on to new record

Ford Fiesta continues to dominate new car sales.

Ford Fiesta continues to dominate new car sales. - Credit: Ford

The UK's new car market grew by 5.3% in March, making it the biggest ever month since the bi-annual plate change began in 1999, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Last month 518,707 new cars were registered, only the third time the market has topped half a million in a single month. The month rounded off a record quarter, in which more than 770,000 new cars were registered – a 5.1% increase more than the first quarter in 2015.

Demand for alternative fuel vehicles showed a notable increase of 21.5% in the month, as consumers continued to favour lower emission vehicles with lower running costs. Registrations of both diesel and petrol cars increased, meanwhile, with respective uplifts of 4.8% and 4.7%.

Growth was seen across all sales types in March – private and business registrations increased 3.8% and 15.3% respectively, while in the fleet sector demand grew 6.0%, reversing small declines seen in January and February as buyers sought to maximise residual values by opting for the new March number plate.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: 'The sector's strong growth in March rounds off a robust first quarter as British consumers continue to demonstrate their appetite for new cars, especially ultra-low emission vehicles. This confidence should see registrations remain at a high but broadly stable level over the year, but could be undermined by political or economic uncertainty.'

The top-selling cars last month and the year (total in brackets) so far are:

1 Ford Fiesta 23,467 (36,327).

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2 Vauxhall Corsa 17,368 (24,579).

3 Ford Focus 14,002 (20,656).

4 Volkswagen Golf 13,041 (19,428).

5 Nissan Qashqai 11,355 (18,680).

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