March is set to "dominate" 2017 in new car sales terms as a growing trend for record monthly sales comes to a head, according to analysis by automotive data experts Cap HPI.
Last year’s March registrations hit 518,707 against 469,696 in September as a trend which started in 2012, when the gap between months was 33,625 vehicles.
Commenting on the trend James Dower, senior editor of the Cap Black Book, said: “March and indeed the first quarter of the year have grown to dominate the sales cycle.
“With a difference of just over 13,000 vehicles in 2012, the gap has grown to nearly 50,000 last year, and all the signs are for a record March this year.”
Cap HPI’s analysis of sales over the first quarter has shown significant growth and this year's March sales are expected to see a huge sales surge from consumers keen to avoid additonal taxation when new VED road tax rules come into play in April.
Some dealers have increased their pre-registration activity to boost sales and benefitr ciustomers who are expected to foot a £400m increased tax bill in 2017 as a result of the change, according to NFDA Trusted Dealers.
This is expected to exacerbate the trend for a strong Q1.
Cap HPI reported that volumes in the first quarter have risen from 605,198 in 2013 to 771,780 in 2016. The represents a margin of over 229,489 vehicles against Q4 2016.
Dower said: “It's clear that a bumper first quarter is important to the industry and we’ve seen record sales in January and February this year. It is likely a combination of manufacturer pressure to build volumes early in the year and customer demand with the rising popularity of the March plate.”
January this year saw 174,564 passenger cars registered reflecting an increase of 2.9% over the same month in 2016.
Private registrations accounted for the overall growth seeing a 5% increase over the same period in 2016, Cap HPI said, with fleet and business remaining relatively level on the previous year’s performance.
Dower said: “Within the overall registration volume there were some interesting performances with some manufacturers increasing both volume and market share against the same position last year.
“It is too early to draw any conclusions from one single month of data, but it will be fascinating to see how the year unfolds and how each manufacturer balances the volume aspirations against each sales channel.”