Growth in the UK car market of 8.4% in March made last month the most successful month yet for new car registrations, which totalled 562,337.
The big month also pushed the year-to-date total to 820,016 registrations, making the first three months of 2017 the most successful quarter yet seen by the industry.
Diesel cars also experienced their best month yet, although petrol car registrations increased considerably, by 13.2% compared with March 2016. Alternatively fuelled vehicles – hybrids, electric cars and hydrogen electric cars – continued their climb, with the segment growing by 31% on last March.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers and businesses reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March, especially those ultra-low-emissions vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee.”
The SMMT also pegged fleet and business sales as a large driver for the increase, with increases of 12.6% and 11.9% respectively. Jaguar Land Rover experienced a promising month, with one of the two companies' models being registered every 30 seconds in March; the two brands have grown in 2017 so far by 69.13% and 23.58% respectively; the best first quarter the manufacturer has experienced. Volkswagen experienced a 2% increase across the year-to-date compared with 2016, while Mercedes-Benz enjoyed an 18.01% upswing. Vauxhall's registrations shrank by 10.28% in the same period, while Honda endured an 11.45% downturn.
Hawes also predicted a slump in April as the new VED changes come into effect, as well as the fewer days of sales due to Easter.
The biggest-selling car in the UK this year remains the Ford Fiesta (38,205 units so far), with the Focus and Vauxhall Corsa following some way behind, with 23,886 and 21,305 registrations respectively.