UK car sales rev to historic high as bumper buyers were driven by incoming tax change

Rebecca Smith
Car sales have gone up another gear
Car sales have gone up another gear (Source: Getty)

The UK's new car market has just posted its biggest month since records began, after growing by 8.4 per cent in March.

There were 562,337 new cars registered in March, more than doubling the total for the first two months of the year.

According to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the rise was driven by buyers rushing to buy cars before the new vehicle excise duty (VED) came into force.

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Since 1 April all new cars, aside from those with zero emissions, are subject to an annual flat rate charge (not an April Fool, sorry new car buyers).

Vroom vroom
Vroom vroom (Source: SMMT)

And interest in low-emission technology is growing. According to the figures, there was a 31 per cent rise in registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles, which are slowly building up market share - rising from 3.4 per cent last year to 4.1 per cent this year.

Meanwhile, petrol car registrations grew 13.2 per cent and diesels edging up 1.6 per cent on last year.

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."

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But Hawes said the brakes are likely to be put on this month.

"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," he said. "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."

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