New car sales rocket in March ahead of road tax changes

Record high new car registrations reported for March, despite poor February sales

Figures show new car sales in the UK reached a record high in March 2017, with some claiming the spike was in response to the new VED charges introduced in April, while others fear another borrowing boom is on the horizon.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) report a total of 562,337 new car registrations in March; an increase of 8.4 per cent in comparison to March 2016, when 518,707 new cars were registered.

New car registrations reach new high in March

New car registrations hit new high in March. © Alan Hughes

Last month’s figure far outstrips what was recorded in both January and February combined. In February, there were just 83,115 new car sales recorded; a poor result compared to the month that was to follow.
The impressive figures have resulted in a record-breaking first quarter for 2017 with a total of 820,016 car sales; an increase of 6.2 per cent on the previous year.
Diesel car sales have been nosediving this quarter compared to the same period last year, perhaps understandably considering the bad press currently surrounding diesel vehicles. However, petrol cars have been propelling the market, with a 13.2 per cent increase recorded in March.
The top-selling cars for March 2017 (and indeed for the year-to-date) are:

  1. Ford Fiesta
  2. Ford Focus
  3. Vauxhall Corsa

The record month has been attributed to consumers trying to beat the new vehicle excise duty (VED) rules which were introduced in the UK on 1 April and have resulted in a road tax fee increase for those purchasing a new car after this date (with the exception of zero emission vehicles).
However, others are concerned about the amount of borrowing that is taking place behind the scenes. The Finance and Leasing Association has said that UK consumers borrowed £31.6 billion last year to finance new car purchases. This figure represents an increase of 12 per cent compared to 2015.
Speaking about last month’s record sales, Mike Hawes, CEO at SMMT, said: “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.”
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