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The March plate change failed to boost new car registrations which fell by 30.5% in March to 313,912 units.
Paul Everitt, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, chief executive, said: “March new car registrations are a barometer of confidence in the economy, from businesses and consumers alike.
“The fall in the market shows that Government needs to do more to boost confidence. A scrappage scheme will provide the incentive needed and the evidence is clear that schemes already implemented across Europe do work to increase demand. The UK is the only major European market not to implement a scheme.”
Sue Robinson, director of the RMI national franchised dealers association (NFDA), said: "While new car sales in March were still well below the numbers seen in 2008, according to our car dealer members, used car sales in March 2009 were still extremely robust.
"However, we urge consumers to take advantage of the many great deals currently available on new cars."
Key March market highlights scale of slowdown
- March has been the largest volume month in six of the 10 years since the switch to the twice-yearly plate change, including in each of the past five years. March typically accounts for 17.9% of the annual market and last year took a 21.2% share, in a robust 451,642 unit market, prior to volumes falling sharply as the recession impacted.
- The March market fell by 137,730 units in 2009 and by 202,991 units over the first three months of the year. The March total was 16,000 units or 4.9% below expectations and pushed the 12 month rolling total to 1.93 million units. Volumes could now slide below 1.7 million units by the end of the year.
- The slowdown continues across all sales types, fuel types and segments – although once again the mini segment bucked the trend and rose 84.0% in March following the arrival of new models over the last 12 months.
- Diesel penetration rose by three percentage points in March, to 43.4% and to 44.0% over the first quarter, up from 40.4% and 41.9% respectively last year.
- The share of the market taken by private buyers rose from 49.3% last March to 50.7%.
- The Ford Fiesta was the best selling model for a fifth successive month in March. The relative success of the Fiesta and other superminis helped the segment share of the March market rise to a high of 36.6%, up from 35.9% last March.