New car registrations boost sales
There were 372,835 new registrations in March 2012 - a 1.8% rise on the March 2011 total, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
The March 2012 figures were further boosted by private sales rising 7.4% - one of the best monthly increases in the past two years.
This was the third successive month of growth for new car sales, with the March 2012 figure being around 6% higher than motor industry forecasts.
But last month's figure was still around 17% lower than the pre-recession March 2007 total.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: "The important March new-car market performed above expectations. 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."
Diesel sales were up 4.7% last month and alternatively-fuelled vehicle sales rose 5.6%, but still account for only 1.5% of the overall market.
The Ford Fiesta was the top-selling model in March 2012, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa and the Ford Focus.