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 per cent increase over the first quarter in 2015.
Demand for alternative fuel vehicles showed a notable increase of 21.5 per cent 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 per cent and 4.7 per cent.
The Ford Fiesta continues to dominate the sales chart, topping the table for monthly (23,467) and yearly (36,327) sales. It is joined in the top three by the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus.
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.”
New registrations snapshot - White is the new black
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 per cent more than a decade earlier.
3. Ten 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 1,173 per cent increase.
4. More than a fifth of cars registered in March 2016 were white, 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. Londoners registered around a sixth (17 per cent) of all Britain’s new cars in March 2016, followed by the West Midlands (13 per cent) and the East (11 per cent).
7. Around 40 per cent 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 per cent and in Northern Ireland by more than a fifth.
8. Buyers of new cars in March can look forward to CO2 emissions of around 20 per cent lower than the average car on the road. In fact, average new car CO2 is at an all-time low of 121.4g/km.