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.
That's according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 518,707 new cars were registered in March, only the third time the market has surpassed half a million units 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 over 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.”
Snapshot: 10 facts about the new car market in March:
1. Overall the supermini is the most popular car type – a trend which is as true in March 2016 as it was in March 2006, with more than a third of all buyers preferring compact driving.
2. The rapid rise of the SUV continues, with more than 85,000 of them newly registered in March – 140% more than a decade earlier and accounting for around one in six new cars last month.
3. 10 years ago in March, just 1,354 hybrid and electric cars were registered. In the same month this year more than 17,000 left the UK’s showrooms – a staggering 12-fold, or 1,173%, increase.
4. More than a fifth of cars registered in March 2016 were white, following the trend set in 2015, with neutral tones black and grey in second and third place.
5. Not all Britons are quite so keen to follow the trend, with some 3,300 new cars specified in orange, 2,000 in yellow and more than 1,000 buyers choosing pink.
6. White was the favourite paint in March for superminis and small family cars, with larger executive models and sports cars more likely to come in black.
7. Londoners registered around a sixth (17%) of all Britain’s new cars in March 2016, followed by the West Midlands (13%) and the East (11%).
8. Drivers in London registered the most new cars of any body type in March, except executive motors, which were most popular in the East of England.
9. Around 40% more new cars were registered in Scotland and England during March 2016 than the same month five years ago, while demand in Wales grew 46% and in Northern Ireland by more than a fifth.
10. Buyers of new cars in March can look forward to CO2 emissions of around 20% lower than the average car on the road. In fact, average new car CO2 is at an all-time low of 121.4g/km – down 32.9% compared with 15 years ago.