New car sales rise for 20th straight month

The UK new car market grew for the 20th consecutive month in March, with registrations up 10.4%.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 317,786 new cars were sold during the month making it the best March performance since 2019 – but still 30.6% down on pre-pandemic levels.

Growth was driven by fleet investment, which was up 29.6%, while registrations by private buyers fell by 7.7%.

Petrol cars accounted for 55.7% of all new registrations, a 9.2% rise on the same month in 2022, while diesel volumes fell 2.7% to just 7.3% of all sales.

Meanwhile, electric vehicles continued to perform strongly. Hybrids rose 19.6% to 44,550 units to make up 14% of the market, plug-in hybrids surged by more than a third to 24,517, which is 7.7% of all new registrations, and sales of pure electrics increased by 3.8%, although their overall market share fell by one per cent to 15.2%.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Market growth continues, fuelled by fleets investing after two tough years of constrained supply. A sluggish private market and shrinking EV market share, however, shows the challenge ahead. Manufacturers are providing compelling offers, but they can’t single-handedly fund the transition indefinitely. Government support for private consumers – not just business and fleets – would send a positive message and deliver a faster, fairer transition on time and on target.”