Sunderland-built Nissan Qashqi helps UK hit record car sales

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SALES of new cars hit a 21st Century record last month – with help from a Sunderland-built model as it drove into the top five.

A total of 492,774 new registrations were recorded in March 2015 – the highest monthly figure since August 1998 and the best March ever, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

We are thrilled to see the increased customer demand for the host of vehicles that we launched last year and our fantastic result in March has seen us move into 4th place in the UK for the first time.

Last month’s figure was six per cent up on March 2014 and took the year-so-far total to 734,588 – an almost seven per cent rise on the January – March 2014 figure.

The Nissan Qashqai, made at the Japanese manufacturer’s Sunderland plant, was the fourth best-selling motor, behind the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and the Ford Focus.

James Wright, managing director, Nissan Motor GB, said: “We are thrilled to see the increased customer demand for the host of vehicles that we launched last year and our fantastic result in March has seen us move into fourth place in the UK for the first time.

“I’m also delighted to see that our British-built models continue to excite UK customers, and in particular the Nissan Leaf, which continues to dominate the EV market.”

March was the 37th month of consecutive growth for the new-car market.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, said: “The best month this century for new car registrations is a welcome boost for the UK’s thriving automotive sector.

“The challenge for a new government and industry will be to maintain this momentum and to strengthen Britain’s manufacturing capabilities, through continued investment, innovation and policies which maintain our global competitiveness.

“Whatever the General Election result, the new government must keep up the commitment to the sector, which is delivering at home and abroad.”

The monthly record for new car sales was achieved in August 1997 when 525,000 new registrations were recorded at a time when the new number plates were only introduced once a year, in August.

After August 1998 saw 505,000 new registrations recorded, the system was changed in 1999, with new plates being introduced in March and September – an arrangement that has carried on.