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Latest new car registrations show growing market confidence, says Deloitte

SMMT figures show that a total of 492,774 cars were registered in March, up 6.0% on same month last year and marking the best month since the twice-yearly number plate changes were introduced in 1999.

The fleet market saw particularly strong results in March, with a rise of 11.6%, from 196,304 units in March 2014 to 219,153 last month. However the sub-25 business sector saw a decline of 6.6% from 22,032 units to 20,578. Private registrations rose 2.7% to 253,043 units.

Year to date, the fleet market is up 14.6% from 309,545 units to 354,690 whilst the business sector has fallen 8.4% from 30,909 units to 28,327. Overall registrations so far this year have increased by 6.8% to 734,588.

Commenting on the figures, Neil Marshall, automotive analyst at Deloitte, said: “It was always going to be a tough challenge to exceed the new car sales figures achieved in March 2014, which was the second highest since the 1999 introduction of the twice-yearly plate change.  It is quite an achievement to have not only maintained the growth story which is now in its 37th consecutive month, but also to have pushed sales to their highest level in 16 years. 

“As interest rates remain at historic low levels and inflation is sitting below the Bank of England’s target, private and business consumers alike will be encouraged by the competitive finance offerings available when considering new car purchases. This is reflected in both markets showing growth this month. Indeed, the relative strength in the new car market may reflect consumers taking advantage of the low rates on offer now, before any uncertainty arises from the forthcoming General Election.

“Whilst the Q4 2014 Deloitte CFO Survey rated the May election and any possible resulting policy change as the biggest risk to business, the recent announcements of significant investment by automotive manufacturers in their UK operations is a further indication of the UK’s automotive success story. This is supported by a new car market firmly established as the second largest in Europe.

“It is also worth noting that the possible restrictions on diesel vehicles, combined with lower petrol prices, may be having an impact. Whilst in March 2014 the increase in diesel cars was numerically greater than the growth in petrol ones, growth in petrol vehicles last month was double the increase in diesel sales. The growth in diesel cars was only just ahead of that achieved by alternatively fuelled vehicles.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.