New car registrations in the UK rose almost six per cent last month compared to the same period last year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said.
The SMMT said March, when new number plates are released, was usually a strong month for car registrations but the latest figures have “out-performed expectations”.
The UK figures are more positive than the EU which continues on a downward trend.
Mike Baunton, SMMT Interim Chief Executive, said: “UK new car registrations out-performed expectations in March, the first month of the new 13-plate.
“The market increased more than five per cent on March 2012 to almost 395,000 units.
“Despite ongoing economic concerns, consistent monthly growth in the market is an encouraging sign of returning consumer confidence as motorists are attracted to forecourts by new models and the latest technologies.”
There were 394,806 registrations of cars with the new 13-plate, a 5.9 per cent increase year-on-year, supported by strong demand for private registrations, which rose 7.8 per cent.
Private registrations accounted for 51.7 per cent of the market, followed by fleet (43.5 per cent) and business (4.8 per cent).
Volumes were at their highest since the 2010 Scrappage Incentive Scheme and the increase represents the 13th consecutive month of growth.
However, registrations are still 12.1 per cent below the 2007 pre-financial crisis market total.
The March figures took total registrations for the year-to-date to 605,198, a 7.4 per cent increase on 2012.
Registrations of petrol-fuelled cars have risen by 12.1 per cent so far in 2013, outselling diesels. This was spurred by growth in the small car and private sector markets, the SMMT reported.
Registrations of alternatively fuelled cars dipped in the month, but rose by 2.9 per cent in the first quarter.