Written by Richard Bush ▼

March car sales are 'moving on up'

SMMT figures for March 2012

The Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT), a trade body representing the UK automotive industry, has revealed that March has exceeded expectations and seen a 1.8 per cent increase in car sales.

Although March is usually the most popular month for car registrations, typically accounting for 18.0 per cent of car sales, Paul Everitt, Chief executive of SMMT, said that the March car market still 'performed above expectations', with car sales totalling an annual percentage of 19.4 per cent in March alone.

The market fell 3.77 per cent in December last year, which painted a pretty bleak picture for 2012, however, there has been a rise of 1.8 per cent in March, with sales standing at 563,556 compared to 558,336 at the same time last year.

But, as always, many were expecting sales to go up as the new 12 plates have been introduced, luring more and more UK customers into buying a new car.


The ever-popular supermini segment conquered 39.1 per cent of the market share in March with five of the top ten sellers being superminis. The Ford Fiesta retained its quarter one top spot as best selling supermini and overall best selling model.

Other superminis in the top ten best sellers include the Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 207 and Vauxhall Corsa, which stole second place ahead of the Ford Focus hatchback in third.

As well as the Focus, small family cars proved to be popular yet again as the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra also appeared in the top ten sellers list.

The British-built Nissan Qashqai continued its strong sales in sixth place, proving that its desirability amongst compact SUV enthusiasts continues despite a growing number of new competitors in the lucrative crossover section.

Fuel types

Diesel car sales in March fell slightly below petrol with 181,368, however year to date figures reveal diesel just about steals a greater market share of 50.4 per cent.

The market share for petrol has dropped from 51.0 per cent (186,610) in March last year to 49.9 per cent (186,047), which may suggest that more people are opting for diesel cars as they are more efficient and therefore cheaper to run.

As well as diesel on the up rise, AFV (alternative fuel) vehicles have also seen a market share increase of 1.8 per cent compared to March last year and a massive market share increase of 5.6 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2011.

This may be due to the increase awareness of fuel efficiency as a result of manufacturer's releasing electric (EV) and frugal hybrid cars, such as Peugeot and its 30008 Hybrid4.

Private vs Business

Private car sales in March saw a 7.4 per cent increase, which Everitt believes was influenced by the introduction of the new 12 plates:

"Domestic demand for new cars is showing signs of recovery with private buyers increasingly returning to take advantage of a wide range of excellent products and, this month, the new 12-plate."

Business sales for March fell by a massive 23.7 per cent compared to March 2011.

Manufacturers - winners vs loser

Premium manufacturers

It may surprise some that premium manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes stayed strong in March.

Mercedes sold 16,334 and BMW sold 20,566, but Audi came out on top with 23,416, which is an increase of 12.92 per cent compared to March last year.

This increase may be largely due to the release of the new Audi A1 last year, which falls into the lucrative supermini segment.


As Saab is pretty much dead and gone, the fact that it sold 150 cars, which is more than Lotus and Maserati, is very impressive.

These 150 sales signify a 94.05 per cent decrease from March last year, with the 150 sales likely to be 'left over stock' types as the last of the 'new' Saabs disappear from our showrooms.


Lotus's sales have dropped 81.82 per cent as the brand continues to pursue an ambitious new product range, leaving a handful of older, lightweight niche models in showrooms.

Lotus sold just ten cars in March this year, down from 55 last year.

MG and Ssangyong

MG has seen sales in March increase 2,850.00 per cent compared to last year as they have risen from eight to 236. The reason being the introduction of the new MG6 hatchback, now that the brand is under new Chinese ownership.

Ssangyong has also seen a massive increase of increase of 4,175.00 as sales have risen from 4 to 171, which is possibly down to sales of the Ssangyong Korando and the brand's return to the UK market.


Chevrolet is on its way up as sales have increase nearly ten per cent compared to March this year. As Paul Everitt mentioned there has been a lot of deniability in term of the new 12 plates and as Chevrolet offered discounts on new 12 plate models, may suggest why they are doing so well.

Chevrolet has also launched new discounts across its range until July this year, so Chevrolet can expect its sales to keep going up.


Kia is becoming more and more popular in terms of practicality and notability.

The Korean manufacturer has recently released two new models, the Rio supermini and Picanto city car, and as smaller car segments are selling better than any others, you can understand why Kia have seen an increase in March of 11.70 per cent and a first quarter increase of 17.32 per cent.

Top ten sellers table for March

Ford Fiesta - 22,667

Vauxhall Corsa - 17,271

Ford Focus - 15,086

Volkswagen Golf - 11,945

Vauxhall Astra - 9,965

Nissan Qashqai - 8,487

Volkswagen Polo - 7,748

Toyota Yaris - 6,973

Peugeot 207 - 6,948

BMW 3 Series - 6,472