Best month of car sales this century

Chris Papadopoullos
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The Ford Fiesta is a firm favourite

Nearly half a million new cars rolled on to Britain’s roads in March, the best month for new car registrations since 1999.

Consumers and firms registered 492,774 new cars in March, up six per cent on the same month last year, according to figures released yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Sales have now increased for 37 consecutive months, a sign that confidence in the UK continues to climb. Some analysts are backing the trend to carry on throughout the remainder of the year.
“New car sales will strengthen further in 2015 as consumer con­fid­ence continues to rise,” said John Leech, head of Automotive for KPMG.
Ford Fiesta39,804
Vauxhall Corsa29,100
Ford Focus22,287
Volkswagen Golf19,435
Nissan Qashqai18,686

Several factors are making it easier to finance car purchases. “The industry continues to support the market with attractive consumer finance packages,” Leech said.

Factories with spare capacity – many in Europe – have chosen to maintain output by offering lucrative finance packages instead of making costly cutbacks to their workforce. Meanwhile, the Bank of England’s low base rate is helping access to finance.
A strong pound has also helped.
“Sterling has recovered roughly half the value it lost during 2008-9 and if it rises further this could make new car prices even cheaper, further bolstering the market,” Leech said.
The sharp climb in sales was also a reflection of business confidence. Sales to firms that have more than 25 company cars shot up by 11.6 per cent in March compared to the same month last year. Sales to all business climbed by 9.8 per cent.
“The best month this century for new car registrations is a welcome boost for the UK’s thriving automotive sector,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.
“The challenge for a new government and industry will be to maintain this momentum and to strengthen Britain’s manufacturing capabilities through continued inv­est­ment, innovation and policies which maintain our global competitiveness.”
The UK’s fortunes are in stark contrast to Russia’s. Sales of new cars and light commercial vehicles in Russia fell by 42.5 per cent in March to 139,850 as the country deals with a falling rouble, high inflation, a collapsing price oil – its main export – and economic sanctions.

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