March is traditionally a big month for car registrations, but this March had the potential to be even bigger than usual. Not only was the new ‘17’ number plate being introduced, but it was also the last month for cars to be bought under the old – and generally cheaper – system of Vehicle Excise Duty.
And so it proved. According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, these twin forces combined to make March a record month for the car industry. 562,337 new cars were registered in total, 8.4% higher than the previous record set last March.
As our graph below shows, this continues a happy trend. 820,016 cars were registered in the first three months of 2017, which is the best quarter ever. 2.74 million were sold in the 12 months to March, which is the best year ever.
It’s not just the quantity of cars that’s pleasing, but also the type of car. 96,610 alternatively-fuelled cars were registered in the year to March – 24% more than in the previous twelve months. This takes AFVs to their highest ever market share of 3.5%.
What’s more, the fleet sector accounts for most of the new car registrations. As our second graph shows, 1.41 million cars were bought by fleets in the year to March. This represents 51.5% of all new cars, which is the largest proportion since June 2012.
And all of this at a time when many forecasters are pessimistic about the economic environment. Britain’s car and fleet industries appear to be amazingly resilient.