First quarter registrations also fell by 7.2% to 701,506 units. But the market is still in a healthy state, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
“Last month was the second highest March market on record”, says SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan.
“This is very encouraging news. The total was 5.9% higher than the average since we moved to a twice-yearly plate change and a little better than expected. After an uncertain start to 2005, March has shown that the new car market is in good shape.”
Alan Pulham, the RMI's franchised dealer director, says: "The new car market is readjusting following its strong performances in 2003 and 2004. Currently private buyers are waiting for stability following a general election, which historically always tended to give the new car market an added impetus."
March and first quarter figures since introduction of twice-yearly plate change
The Ford Focus retained pole position in March, outselling its nearest rival by 63%.
With March accounting for around 60% of first quarter totals, the top four sellers in March also claimed the top four slots over the first quarter.
Five superminis appeared in the top 10 in March. Over 20% of annual private registrations take place in this month.
The new diesel car market rose by 2.4% in March to record its 54th successive monthly improvement. The gain came on top of a 24.6% hike in the same month last year.
Diesel penetration in March rose to 32.3%, up from 30% a year ago. Diesel penetration over the first quarter rose to 33.9%.
The Renault Mégane was the top selling diesel car in March and also over the first quarter – with the Ford Mondeo taking second place.
A 10.5% rise in registrations within the lower medium sector was also recorded.
Volumes jumped by 13,120 units in 2005 to 137,867 units compared to last year. They represented 31.1% of the market, up from a 26.7% share last March. Volumes rose by 4.7% to match supermini volumes in the first quarter.