ALMOST HALF a million cars were sold last month — the highest number in a single month since 1998 and the highest March total since records began. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 492,774 new cars were registered as buyers rushed out to bag a 15 numberplate. Sales for the year are now on course to exceed 2.5m.
The sales figures also suggest that the allure of diesel-powered cars is beginning to wane, perhaps because of increasing concern about the pollution they give off and threats from councils to start penalising them with surcharges on parking permits and the introduction of low emissions zones. The market share of diesel has dropped by 1.3 percentage points. The SMMT, which has criticised authorities for demonising diesel, played down the change, saying it was too early to judge whether drivers were turning away from the fuel or if it was simply a monthly blip.
Experts say attractive finance deals offered by manufacturers are the main spur and predict that car sales will continue to grow strongly this year as new vehicles become cheaper. “Sterling has recovered roughly half the value it lost during 2008-9 and if it rises further this could make new car prices even cheaper, further bolstering the market,” said John Leech, UK head of motoring for the consultancy firm KPMG.
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