UK car registrations see strongest month in 10 years

 
Peter Spence
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Car registrations are picking up speed, according to the latest SMMT data.

They rose to 464,825 in March, a rise of 17.7 per cent on last month.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes says that's "a surprisingly strong level of growth and a reflection of intensifying consumer confidence".

No surprise that March saw a lot of volume - as new license plates are released it accounts for almost a fifth of all annual registrations. But this number is especially high, with the most activity since March 2004's 466,954 registrations.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, says it's a "hugely impressive performance" for the car industry. Some of that is reflective of improved business confidence, says Archer, as growth supports higher sales of fleet cars.

March's most popular vehicles were the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, and Vauxhall Corsa. Registrations are up by 13.7 per cent in the year to date, and March's results mark a 25th month of year-on-year gains in car sales.

SMMT outline the largest changes to the market since March 2004:

  • Segments: Market has shifted towards smaller cars (Mini and Supermini segments) and Dual Purpose and MPV segments.
  • Fuel efficiency: Average mpg has improved 35 per cent, from 42.4mpg to 57.2mpg, since March 2004.
  • CO2 emissions: Average new car CO2 emissions are 26 per cent lower than a decade ago. In March 2014, 67.2 per cent of the market was below 130g/km, so paid no VED in the first year, compared with 6.5 per cent in March 2004.
  • Colours: White was the most popular car colour in March 2014, compared with silver in March 2004