► 518,707 cars registered in March
► It's a new UK monthly record
► First-quarter sales jump 5.1%
Britain's love affair with new cars - fuelled by cheap finance, a strong economy and (surely) pre-registrations - continues unabated. March 2016 set a new monthly record for the number of new cars registered in the UK, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
It reports that 518,707 new cars were registered last month, a 5.3% rise on the same month in 2015. March ushers in the new spring registration letter each year: this year that meant the new 16-reg number plates.
The UK market: still treasure island?
New cars continue to fly out of showrooms in Great Britain and the record March contributed to a strong first quarter, rising 5.1% to 771,780 new registrations. That's also a record; never before have so many new cars been sold in a single quarter.
It's worth noting that the March record is since the bi-annual plate change began, according to the SMMT. When Britain still had the once-a-year new plate change on 1 August, there were bigger single months.
Winners and losers in Q1 2016
It seems that the Dieselgate emissions scandal that embroiled Volkswagen has had little effect on Britain's car buyers; diesel sales rose slightly higher than petrol registrations, up 4.8% on March 2015, while petrol sales rose 4.7%.
Many brands reported record sales. Jaguar Land Rover, which enjoyed a 16% jump on March 2015 sales, reported it sold a new car every two minutes, as it registered 25,127 vehicles in the month. Kia, too, reported its strongest ever March, with 16,207 sales and Jeep enjoyed a record month too.
Looking at the year to date, the best-sellers in the first quarter of 2016 were:
- Ford Fiesta 36,327
- Vauxhall Corsa 24,579
- Ford Focus 20,656
- VW Golf 19,428
- Nissan Qashqai 18,680
- VW Polo 15,162
- Vauxhall Astra 14,764
- Audi A3 13,046
- Vauxhall Mokka 12,505
- Fiat 500 11,400
However, some experts warned that pre-registrations were still rife. Derren Martin, senior editor at CAP HPI, said: 'How the industry copes with increasing volumes of vehicles returning to the market, particularly from "tactical registrations" via pre-registrations and short-cycle daily rental channels, will underpin the stability of the used market.'
Click here for our full analysis of the 2015 full-year sales figures to find out what Brits really buy.