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New car sales in the UK sprang back sharply in March, up by 8.4 per cent on the year in the “biggest month since records began” according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. But the pace is still set to cool, the SMMT added.
The record performance came as buyers seized the chance to buy cars before the new vehicle excise duty rates came into force. From 1 April, under the new system all new cars, except for those with zero emissions, are subject to an annual flat rate charge.
All told, over 562,000 new cars were registered in March, more than double the tally from the first two months of the year.
Mike Hawes at the SMMT 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 emission vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee. 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. 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.
Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays described the result as “spectacular”:
The car industry will be delighted with these spectacular figures. We have to look at the results in context, and there is no doubt that March’s sales have been driven by savvy buyers getting their purchases in before the tax changes were introduced at the start of April. However, that shouldn’t take the shine off today’s numbers, as getting March right goes a long way to ensuring a successful year.