Total sales of 14-plate vehicles hit 464,824, while year-to-date registrations were up 13.7 per cent to 688,122 units.
March’s strong performance has led the organisation to declare that only March 2004 saw higher registrations since the move to a twice-yearly plate change system in 1999.
‘New car registrations surged 17.7 per cent in March to 464,824 units, a surprisingly strong level of growth and a reflection of intensifying consumer confidence and the availability of great new products,’ said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. ‘Given the past six years of subdued economic performance across the UK, there is still a substantial margin of pent-up demand that is contributing to a strong new and used car market.
‘There has never been a better time to buy a new car thanks to attractive finance deals and advanced technologies that often make new cars cheaper to run.
‘We expect the market to continue to perform positively for the rest of the year, albeit at a more modest rate.’
Richard Lowe, head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays, said: ‘We have seen yet another month of growth in new car registrations, partly driven by the all-important March plate change, but also helped by the continued availability of attractive manufacturer-funded finance deals.
‘UK consumers appear to be changing the way they buy new cars, opting to look beyond the price ticket on the windscreen in favour of affordable monthly payments. While these tempting deals continue to be offered, demand is likely to continue to remain strong for some time.’
SMMT’s chief executive fronted a video explaining the month’s performance – you can watch it below.