By Jonathan Davies

The number of new cars sold in the UK hit a record high in March, according to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The SMMT said there were 492,774 new cars sold in the UK in March, the highest number since new number plates were introduced twice a year in 1999. It was the 37th consecutive month of growth. And the SMMT said it shows continued demand for new products and new fuel-efficient and advanced technologies.

The figures show that compared with the year to March last year, sales are up 6.8% to 734,588.

New products and attractive finance packages underpinned by low interest rates helped deliver this record result which was led by the fleet sector, with 11.6% year-on-year growth, reflecting the economic confidence currently felt by UK companies.

The UK market surpassed pre-recession levels some seven months ago, helping bolster the economy and drive it out of recession. This growth, supported by domestic manufacturing, has attracted more than £14 billion of investment since 2011, creating almost 30,000 additional jobs.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The best month this century for new car registrations is a welcome boost for the UK’s thriving automotive sector. The challenge for a new government and industry will be to maintain this momentum and to strengthen Britain’s manufacturing capabilities through continued investment, innovation and policies which maintain our global competitiveness. Whatever the general election result, the new government must keep up the commitment to the sector which is delivering at home and abroad.”

Chris Sutton, Managing Director of Black Horse, said: “Whilst March car sales are usually the busiest selling month of the year, this year’s 2015 plate change has set a new record high since the twice yearly number plate change was introduced in 1999. It is good to see that this boost has come from businesses taking on new fleets and upgrading company cars demonstrating strong business confidence. The industry has for a while been suggesting that demand will ease for new cars but based on current data it is hard to predict when this growth will slow down."