New car sales soar to 10-year high
New car sales soared in March, with the new 14 number plate helping registrations reach their highest monthly total for 10 years.
A total of 464,824 new cars were registered last month - a rise of 17.7% on the March 2013 figure and the best since 466,954 were registered in March 2004, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
The March 2014 and March 2004 figures represent the best two months for new sales since 1999 when the motor industry abandoned the August once-a-year number plate change in favour of twice-a-year changes in March and September.
The bumper March 2014 total took year-so-far sales to 688,122 - a 13.7% rise on the total for the first three months of last year.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said last month's surge represented "a surprisingly strong level of growth and a reflection of intensifying consumer confidence and the availability of great new products".
He went on: "Given the past six years of subdued economic performance across the UK, there is still a substantial margin of pent-up demand that is contributing to a strong new and used-car market.
"There has never been a better time to buy a new car thanks to attractive finance deals and advanced technologies that often make new cars cheaper to run. We expect the market to continue to perform positively for the rest of the year, albeit at a more modest rate."
The SMMT said that the average registration volume for the month of March from 2004 to 2008 was around 449,000 units, with this figure dipping to 369,000 in the post-recession period of 2009 to 2013.
The twice-yearly plate change means March and September alone typically account for over a third of the annual market. In February 2014, for example, fewer than 69,000 new cars were registered.
These were the top-selling models in March 2014:
1. Ford Fiesta
2. Ford Focus
3. Vauxhall Corsa
4. Volkswagen Golf
5. Vauxhall Astra
6. Nissan Qashqai
7. Volkswagen Polo
8. Fiat 500
9. BMW 3 Series