New car sales revved up in Northern Ireland in March with an increase of more than 5% in the number of vehicles sold, figures have shown.
The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
In total, there were 7,807 new vehicles driven off forecourts here in March - up 5.29% on the year before. The German Volkswagen brand again enjoyed healthy sales despite the diesel emission scandal of last year, with 216 Golfs and 183 Polos sold. That was just 11 down on March 2015.
Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said the increase in sales suggested that households were spending the money saved from falling food and petrol prices and persistently low interest rates.
"During 2015, car sales were disappointing and remained at odds with the wider recovery in the economy," he added.
"However, the almost inevitable recovery now seems to be in train, but with fuel prices starting to edge back upwards and no shortage of political and economic uncertainty, this could act to dampen consumer sentiment."
Colin McNab, operations director at Charles Hurst, one of Northern Ireland's biggest motor dealers, said demand was improving, and the gap was narrowing on the peak car sales of 2007 and that general economic conditions were highly favourable.
"A highly competitive retail environment which drives huge choice and value, the prospect of prolonged low interest rates and comparatively low unemployment continue to provide us with a solid, positive backdrop for further growth," he added.
"Private sales remain robust, but demand from fleet buyers continues to grow beyond our expectations, and it's in this area that we see even more potential for the full year ahead."
For once, Northern Ireland was not overtaken in new car sales by all the other UK nations in the figures released yesterday.
The region enjoyed the UK's second-highest percentage growth rate at 5.29%, eclipsed only by England, where sales grew 5.73%.
In contrast, growth in new car sales in Wales and Scotland grew at the more sedate rates of 3.4% and 2.7% respectively.
March was the second month in a row of good growth for the market in Northern Ireland, after a 6% growth in new car registrations in February.
UK-wide, there were 518,707 new cars registered in March, only the third time the market surpassed 500,000 units.
Across the UK as a whole, Volkswagen had 38,694 registrations in March, up 0.02% on the same month in 2015, but its year-to-date sales for 2016 remain 4.88% down on the same point last year.