March: one of the best months for UK new car market image

British new car market grew 5.3 percent in March as more than half a million buyers took advantage of popular plate change, according to SMMT.

The UK’s new car market made a solid 5.3 percent jump last month, making it the biggest ever month since the bi-annual plate change began in 1999, according to figures published this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 518,707 new cars were registered in Europe’s second biggest auto market, being only the third time it has surpassed half a million units in a single month. Sales in this month are traditionally strong as new registration plates are issued every six months, in March and September. The figures rounded off a record quarter, with more than 770,000 new units, up 5.1 percent compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Demand for alternative fuel vehicles showed a notable increase of 21.5 percent, as customers continued to favour lower emission vehicles with smaller running costs, SMMT said. Registrations of both diesel and petrol cars increased, meanwhile, with respective uplifts of 4.8 percent and 4.7 percent. Private and business registrations rose 3.8 percent and 15.3 percent respectively, while in the fleet sector demand grew 6.0 percent, reversing small declines seen in January and February as buyers sought to maximise residual values by opting for the new March number plates.

Demand for Volkswagen’s core brand almost stood flat, slightly up by 0.02 percent, the first increase since September. With 38,684 registrations in March, VW was the third-ranking brand, behind Ford’s 60,394 units and Vauxhall’s 51,694 vehicles.