A total of 174,564 new cars were registered last month in Europe's second largest market, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on Monday, boosted by a five percent increase in sales to individual consumers. Fleet demand also grew marginally by 1.4%, while business registrations fell by -1.0%.
Registrations by private motorists had the strongest performance, rising 5% to 76,726 new cars.
Petrol vehicle registrations, meanwhile, grew by 8.9% during the month, while diesel registrations fell by 4.3%.
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It therefore covers about half the economy, whereas official data on services published with more of a lag covers nearly 80%. Output prices also continued to rise with the rate of increase unchanged from December's 68-month high.
The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said he expected some "cooling" in the auto market as the year progressed.
"It's also encouraging to see that the growth of the AFVs shows no sign of slowing, with that segment posting almost 20% growth to take a record 4.2% market share".
'After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges'.
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According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' data, the figure represents a 2.9% overall rise on the same month a year ago, while the fleet market grew by 1.4%, to 91,181 units. Alternative fuel vehicles continued their positive trend (+19.9%) and now have a market share of 4.2%, the highest ever. Diesel registrations were down -4.3%, while petrol saw an increase of 8.9%.
"We're talking about a market that is at peak demand, following the sector's resurgence after the recession", he said last month.
Chris Bosworth, director of strategy at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said: "After a nine month period of sustained decline, it's interesting to note that new-car private sector sales are again on the increase".
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In terms of marques, Ford held the top three spots and its Transit Custom was the clear leader with more than 3,000 units sold last month.