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UK car sales reach 21st century high14-Apr-2015

The UK has experienced its highest monthly level of sales for new vehicles since the turn of the millennium, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The SMMT's figures showed that in March, 492,774 new cars were registered for the nation's roads – a 6% increase year-on-year compared with March 2014 and the largest figure since the move to twice-yearly registration plates in 1999.

Much of the increase last month has been attributed to motorists wanting to buy a brand new vehicle sporting the latest DVLA registration plates.

Previously, UK registration plate updates were only yearly (in August), with the strongest ever month for new car registrations being back in August 1998, when 525,000 new vehicles exited the dealership forecourts.

Last month's best-selling vehicle nationwide was the Ford Fiesta, selling 27,034 new models.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “The best month this century for new car registrations is a welcome boost for the UK's thriving automotive sector. 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. Whatever the general election result, the new government must keep up the commitment to the sector, which is delivering at home and abroad.”

The UK car industry as a whole has been on the up for the last three years, aided by a buoyant export market. In 2014, the UK recouped £26.2 bn from car exports.

March 2015 was the 37th consecutive month that new vehicle registrations have risen, with sales in the year to date up by almost 7%, standing at 734,588.

The bulk of vehicles sold remains in the privately registered petrol category but, more interestingly, there has been a 62% increase in alternatively-fuelled vehicles year-on-year compared with 2014.

There's no doubting the world's leading auto conglomerates are acknowledging the UK as an attractive destination for sales and vehicle development. Just recently, Honda announced a £200 m investment in its Swindon-based plant, transforming it into the global hub for Honda's next Civic model. Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover secured fresh investment of £3 bn by its Indian parent company, Tata.