UK new car sales record best March since 2019, industry body says

(Reuters) -Britain’s new car market recorded the best March since 2019, on the back of steady demand for fleet vehicles, industry data showed on Thursday.

March, which is generally the busiest month of the year due to the issuance of new number plates, saw a total of 317,786 new car sales, up 10.4% from a year ago, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

March sales are still 30.6% below those seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fleet sales rose about 30% in March but private demand fell 7.7% as cost of living pressures and high interest rates continued to weigh on consumer spending.

“Market growth continues, fuelled by fleets investing after two tough years of constrained supply. A sluggish private market and shrinking EV market share, however, show the challenge ahead,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.

While battery electric vehicle (BEV) registration volumes notched the highest recorded levels in March, their market share fell by one percentage point from the same month last year.

SMMT, which said manufacturers are offering “generous incentives” in a push to switch to zero-emission vehicles, called for further incentives for private retail buyers.

“Government support for private consumers – not just business and fleets – would send a positive message and deliver a faster, fairer transition on time and on target,” Hawes said.

The industry body has called for incentives such as temporarily halving value added tax on BEVs at a time when investment in the sector has been growing.

(Reporting by Yamini Kalia and Anchal Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Mrigank Dhaniwala)


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