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New car sales increased for the first time since August during March, as close to 285,000 new modes were registered across the UK, according to data published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

So despite showrooms being closed throughout March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, registrations increased by 11.5 per cent to 283,964, compared to the same period in 2020, which was when the country was forced into the first lockdown. However, the SMMT says figures were down by around 36.9 per cent compared to the 2010-2019 March average.

Within the figures, though, there was plenty of positivity for electrified models, with big increases in popularity recorded for EVs (up 88.2 per cent to 22,003 registrations), plug-in hybrids (up 152.2 per cent to 17,330) and hybrids (up 42 per cent to 21,599).

In terms of the most popular cars, the Vauxhall Corsa (7,927) was up at the top, followed by the Ford Fiesta (7,406) and Mercedes A-Class (7,012), while 6,585 examples of Tesla’s Model 3 EV were sold, too – accounting for almost 30 per cent of electric cars registered in March.

The SMMT is also anticipating a boost in sales in April, with showrooms able to open in Scotland from yesterday. Boris Johnson also announced yesterday that car dealers would be included in the next wave of lockdown restrictions easing on April 12. Wales is also expected to follow this date, too, while click and collect will be permitted in Northern Ireland then too.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard. However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return.

“We know we will see record breaking growth next month given April 2020 was a washout, but a strong, sustainable market is possible if customers respond to the choice and competitive offers the industry provides within the safest of showroom environments.”

Ted Welford

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April 6, 2021