New car registrations in the UK recorded their first rise since August of 2020 last month with 283,964 new units sold.
That marked an 11.5% rise on a year earlier.
According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 29,280 more units were registered in March than during the same month one year before.
Nevertheless, March also represented the anniversary of the first lockdown, when the pandemic brought Britain to a standstill leading to a 44.4% reduction in registrations.
Compared with the 2010-2019 March average of 450,189, registrations were down by -36.9%, with 283,964 units registered. So far, 2021 had seen 58,032 fewer cars registered when compared to January-March of the year before, a volume that amounted to lost turnover of £1.8bn during the first quarter.
To reach pre-pandemic levels, around 8,300 new cars would need to be registered on every single day throughout the rest of the year.
The data revealed that new technologies were growing in popularity among customers with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) taking a combined market share of 13.9%, up from 7.3% one year before.
Registrations came almost entirely from fleets last month, with a 28,7% jump. Retail consumer demand meanwhile fell by 4.1% when compared to 2020.
The ongoing slump in retail consumer demand was slightly boosted by ‘click and collect’, which had provided a lifeline for the sector. Nevertheless, it lacks the same experience and excitement as a showroom environment, said the SMMT report.
Dealerships were set to reopen their doors during the following week.
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 and sustainable market is possible if customers are attracted to the choice and competitive offer the industry is able to provide within the safest of showroom environments.”