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UK car sales up as Europe declines

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has announced that UK new car registrations in March have outperformed all expectations, with the industry recording a rise of just under 6% when compared to figures for March 2102. March is already understood by the industry to be a month when strong sales are expected, due to the introduction of new number plates.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has announced that UK new car registrations in March have outperformed all expectations, with the industry recording a rise of just under 6% when compared to figures for March 2102. March is already understood by the industry to be a month when strong sales are expected, due to the introduction of new number plates. Nevertheless, the 6% figure is substantially above the 2012 March increase of 2%. The figures are also in stark contrast to those elsewhere in Europe, where sales trends continue to be stubbornly negative.

Registrations of new '13' plate cars in the UK reached 394,806 in March, representing a year-on-year rise of 5.9% on 2012. The surge in sales was led by a strong demand in the private registration sector, where increases hit 7.8%. These private registrations made up 51.7% of the market, with fleet sales accounting for 43.5% and business users 4.8%. Sales volumes in March were at their highest since the 2010 scrappage incentive scheme was introduced and the month accounts for the 13th successive month of growth. Encouraging though the figures are, they are put into perspective when it is considered that March 2013 registrations are still more than 12% lower than the pre-financial crisis 2007 figure. Taken as a whole, 2013 figures have now reached 605,198 vehicles, which represents an increase of 7.4% for the same period during 2012.

Mike Baunton, chief executive of SMMT commented: "Consistent monthly growth in the market is an encouraging sign of returning consumer confidence." He added that "motorists have been attracted to forecourts by new models and the latest technologies". The rise has been led by petrol engine vehicles, which have seen increases of more than 12% during 2013 so far. These cars have been particularly strong in the small car and private sales markets.

Registrations of 'alternatively' fuelled cars meanwhile showed a disappointing dip in March but still rose by 2.9% over the first quarter as a whole. Chief UK and European economist at analyst firm IHS Global Insight, Howard Archer, commented: "It is evident that private new car sales have been supported by attractive offers and motorists' desire to buy more fuel-efficient cars at a time of high petrol prices." The figures will be welcome news for the industry after the AA reported that sales of petrol at UK forecourts had plummeted by more than 20% over the last five years, reflecting the extremely tough environment being faced by drivers across the country.
 

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