New car sales: March sales up by 11.5%

Ryan Hirons
April 06, 2021

New car sales have risen for the first time since August 2020, with March seeing an 11.5% increase.

  • 283,964 new car sales in March
  • New car registrations up 11.5%
  • First rise in new car sales since August 2020

Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have revealed that new car sales rose by 11.5% in March — the first growth since August 2020.

Despite lockdown restrictions resulting in the continued closure of showrooms throughout the month, 283,964 new cars were registered in March which is up from 254,684 for the same month in 2020.

It’s a promising sign as the UK’s lockdown restrictions begin to lift and car showrooms are preparing to open again to customers in the near future. Currently, dealerships across the country are able to sell cars online with delivery or with supermarket-style click and collect services.


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Alternatively-fuelled cars continue to steal the headlines for sales rises. Plug-in hybrid car sales rose by 152.2% compared with March 2020, totalling 17,330, while pure-electric car registrations tallied at 22,003 — an 88.2% rise over the previous year.

Conventional ‘self-charging’ hybrids racked up 21,599 registrations for a 42% rise with mild-hybrid petrol and diesel cars rising by 134.9% — largely as a result of the drastic increase of manufacturers offering them. Pure-petrol sales were down 10% to 137,557, with diesel sales falling most by 31.4% to 30,3730.

Overall sales so far in 2021 now total 425,525 — 12% down on the same period in 2020, though a rise in April is expected as dealerships open up following lockdown.

New car sales: biggest sellers in March

The Vauxhall Corsa lead the way for new car sales in March

The Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta swapped around again in March, with the former pipping the latter at 7,927 and 7,406 registrations respectively.

The Mercedes A-Class led the way for premium vehicles, rounding out the podium of best-selling cars for March at 7,012, with the Tesla Model 3 coming in fourth at 6,585.

Regular suspects including the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Puma and Volkswagen Golf appeared too.

March new car registrations
Vauxhall Corsa 7,927
Ford Fiesta 7,406
Mercedes A-Class 7,012
Tesla Model 3 6,585 Latest deals
Nissan Qashqai 6,583 Latest deal
BMW 3 Series 5,681
Volkswagen Golf 5,194 Latest deals
Toyota Yaris 4,910 Latest deals
Ford Puma 4,886 Latest deals
Mini 4,883

New car sales: biggest sellers year to date

Following a table-topping March, the Vauxhall Corsa builds a gap as the best-selling car so far this year with 12,413 registered. 

The Ford Fiesta comes in second with 11,645 sales, while the Nissan Qashqai follows in third at 10,739.
Year-to-date new car registrations
Vauxhall Corsa 12,413
Ford Fiesta 11,645
Nissan Qashqai 10,739
Mercedes A-Class  10,169 Latest deals
BMW 3 Series 8,092 Latest deals
Volvo XC40 8,084
Volkswagen Golf 7,896 Latest deals
Kia Sportage 7,837 Latest deals
Ford Puma 7,561 Latest deals
Volkswagen Tiguan 7,384

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.

“New plug-in models are already helping drive a recovery but to convince more retail consumers to make the switch, they must be assured these new technologies will be convenient for their driving needs and that means, above all, that the charging infrastructure is there where they need it, and when they need it.”

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