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Industry ‘fights for every sale’

March new car registrations are down by 1.6% to 435,847 units year-on-year. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said private buyers are 'heading back to showrooms'.

While total sales, including private, business and fleet, were down, private new car registrations were up by 483 to 222,542 units - or 0.2%. Diesel volumes also rose, by 8.9%, to 156,932 units in March compared to the same period in 2005.

"The lure of the new 06 registration plate and some excellent deals on the forecourts has seen new car buyers heading back to dealerships. The private market remains fiercely competitive despite the general slowdown in the economy," said Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive.

"However, a reasonable March cannot mask the poor start to the year, and 2006 will continue to be a challenge for the industry as we fight for every sale," he said.

  • SMMT registration figures by manufacturer

    March and first quarter figures since introduction of twice-yearly plate change

    March registrations Q1 total registrations
    Total Private registrations
    2000 401,972 187,276 660,747
    2001 408,024 219,281 675,083
    2002 423,727 223,879 722,718
    2003 438,075 232,856 712,940
    2004 466,954 248,590 756,005
    2005 442,939 222,059 701,505
    2006 435,847 222,542 669,206

    The supermini sector showed its first growth since March 2004, with a 1.8% rise. The Ford Fiesta took second place overall, after their volumes rose by 34% or 5,535 units.

    The Ford Focus remained the best seller in March and in the first quarter, despite a fall in volumes. Lower medium sector cars recorded a 10% drop in March 2006 volumes, down on a strong 2005 performance.

    MG Rover's demise accounts for a drop of 11,543 units in March and 17,950 units over quarter one, compared with the overall market's drops of 7,092 and 32,299 units.

    Diesel volumes showed their first increase of the year in March, rising 8.9%. Strong growth boosted their market share to 36%.

    The rise in March helped first quarter diesel registrations rise by 1.8%. The Ford Focus remained the best selling model in both the month and year-to-date. Ford's Mondeo moved up to second place in both periods.

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