Ford Fiesta was UK's best-selling vehicle in March's record car sales
Ford Fiesta
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March 2016 car sales record profile

  • Highest one-month registrations since 1999 rounds off record quarter
  • New car market grows 5.3% in March
  • More than half a million buyers for 16-reg plate change.
  • First quarter registrations up 5.1% in 2016 to 771,780 units.
  • Alternative fuel vehicles see 21.5% jump in demand
  • Robust growth in diesel and petrol registrations.

IT was Sweet 16 for the UK’s new car market as March’s 16-reg plate launch saw it grow by 5.3% to top half a million for a new car sales record.

Sales were bolstered as business registrations grew by 15.3% and the fleet sector by 6%  to take half the market in the biggest ever month’s tally since the bi-annual plate change began in 1999, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

With 518,707 new cars registered in March, it was only the third time the market has surpassed half a million units in a single month.

March 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.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes 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.”

record car sales best sellers

10 facts about the new car sales record

  • 1.   Overall the supermini is the most popular car type – a trend 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.

Record car sales colours

  • 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, 2,000in 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.

Fuels and fleet sector – how they stand

record car sales breakdown March 16


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