New Car Sales Accelerate By 18% In March
New car registrations were up almost 18% in March compared to the same period last year.
A total of 464,824 cars were registered in the month, the highest level for a decade - nearly 15,000 a day.
Last month's figure and the previous high, recorded in March 2004, were the two best registration periods since 1999 when the motor industry ditched the August new number plate for a twice-yearly system.
The sales speed-up in March has taken year-so-far sales to 688,122, a rise of 13.7% on the total for the first three months of 2013.
Trade body SMMT said the surge reflects a return to confidence to Britain, especially as more than half of the total went to private buyers.
"New car registrations surged 17.7% in March to 464,824 units, a surprisingly strong level of growth and a reflection of intensifying consumer confidence and the availability of great new products," SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said.
"Given the past six years of subdued economic performance across the UK, there is still a substantial margin of pent-up demand that is contributing to a strong new and used car market."
The month of March is the traditional registration high point, however the industry expects growth to continue.
"There has never been a better time to buy a new car thanks to attractive finance deals and advanced technologies that often make new cars cheaper to run," Mr Hawes said.
"We expect the market to continue to perform positively for the rest of the year, albeit at a more modest rate."
The best-selling car remains the Ford Fiesta, with 25,753 registered in the month.
That was 58% above the next best-seller, the stablemate Focus (16,860), and the Vauxhall Corsa (16,231).
VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Nissan Qashqai were the next best models, along with the VW Polo, Fiat 500, BMW 3 Series and Toyota Yaris.
Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) saw a rise of 35% year-on-year, however the "green vehicle" total was still below 2% of all cars put on the road.
There is now expected to be a surge in AFVs sales, amid an increased awareness of air pollution.
Diesel-powered cars, whose exhaust emission particulates are known to be harmful, made up 47.8% of sales in March.
Many heavily-populated areas of Britain have been blanketed in thick smog this week, due to atmospheric conditions and vehicle pollutants.