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New car sales down by 7.9% in March

But alternative fuel car sales almost double

Car factory

New car sales are down on March 2010

Sales of new 11-plate cars were down in March compared to the same month of 2010, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) confirmed today.

New car sales for March 2011 totalled 366,101 compared to 397,383 new car registrations in the same month of 2010 – a decline of 7.9%.

However, the SMMT says sales were actually up by 5.9% on 2010 if you exclude cars sold through the scrappage scheme last year – putting sales ahead of the 5.0% forecast for the entire year.

Read our guide to buying a new car

Diesels and alternative fuel cars up

The number of new car registrations for the first quarter of 2011 fell by 8.7%, with a total of 558,336 new cars sold so far this year.

Ford Focus Electric

Alternative fuel vehicle sales have almost doubled in March compared to 2010

But although new car sales are down on 2010, new car CO2 emissions hit a new record for the first quarter – they are 3.4% lower than last year, down to an average of 140.3g/km.

That figure is supported by a growth in diesel and alternative fuel car sales. Alternative fuel vehicle sales were up by 49.1% with a total of 5,326 sales, and over 10,000 more diesel cars were sold compared to March 2010.

But don’t get too excited, because petrol sales were down by almost 20%, and the SMMT is predicting sales registrations will slow again in the second quarter of the year.

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive, said: ‘The UK saw 366,2101 new cars registered in March, demonstrating sustained demand in what is traditionally the biggest month of the year.

‘Despite a dip versus 2010, the market remains on course to meet SMMT’s forecast for the year with motorists buying increasingly fuel-efficient and low-emitting vehicles across every segment.’

Read our guide to eco cars

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is the biggest selling car of March and 2011 so far

Ford Fiesta continues as UK bestseller

Today’s results mean new car registrations have declined in each of the last nine months.

However, one factor of new car sales that is staying consistent is the popularity of Ford, with the Fiesta and Focus leading sales of all models.

The Fiesta topped sales for March with 19,676 registrations, and the Focus followed in second place with 14,370 sales, confirming the models’ respective places in the standings for total sales in 2011 so far.

The Vauxhall Corsa and Astra and Volkswagen Golf make up the final top five places in that order for both the month of March and the first quarter of 2011.

Read the full review of the Ford Fiesta here

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