New monthly sales record in March 2017 as Brits scramble to beat VED changes

Published: 05 April 2017

► New UK car sales record
► 562,337 new cars in March 
► VED changes spark growth

Britain's new-car sales smashed all existing records last month, as 562,337 vehicles were registered for the first time.

It's a new monthly record for UK car sales - and an 8.4% increase over March 2016. That was enough to spur the first quarter of 2017 to a record high of 820,016 units.

What drove the new-car sales increase?

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which monitors UK sales, said the change to the VED annual road tax system had sparked a rush to register cars before the 1 April cut-off.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: 'These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March, especially those ultra-low emission vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee.'

The new road tax system means that only pure electric cars qualify for tax-free status; many low-emisisons cars now have to pay VED, whereas before they were free.

The outlook for UK new-car sales in 2017 

There is plenty of uncertainty around, what with the unusually large 17-reg rush in March and a potential consumer slowdown as Brexit negotiations kick off in earnest.

'This bumper performance probably means we will see a slowdown in April, exacerbated by the fact there are fewer selling days this year given Easter timing,' admitted Hawes. 'Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we still expect the market to cool only slightly given broader political uncertainties as there are still attractive deals on offer.'

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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