Image: Ford Image: Ford

British drivers bought more cars in March than in any other month for 17 years, according to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The industry body said 519,000 cars were sold in the UK last month, up 5.3% on the same month last year. And there was a particular rise in alternatively-fuelled vehicles, which saw sales grow 21.5% compared with traditional petrol and diesel vehicles rising just 5%.

March is typically the biggest month of the year for car sales, with new car registrations coming in, and usually accounts for a fifth of the year's entire sales. This figure is the single largest since new registrations were brought in every March and September in 1999. In fact, it has only been beaten once before, in August 1997 when 525,539 new cars were bought.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, "The sector's strong growth in March rounds off a robust first quarter as British consumers continue to demonstrate their appetite for new cars, especially ultra-low emission vehicles."