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New car marketNewsDealer profileUsed car analysisInsight: RecruitmentPeugeot UKNewsdigestNew car newsNew car marketBy Tim RoseNew car registrations strengthened in the March 12-plate campaign to drive the first quarter's market to 0.9% growth overall - an improvement of 5,220 units on Q1 2011.Moreover, almost all of that growth was achieved in the private registration segment, which lifted 5.8% in the quarter. That's a positive sign that ought to hearten franchised dealers who are continuing to optimise their opportunities in such difficult market conditions.The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders noted that registrations have risen in four of the past eight months. However, it said the underlying market trend is more about stability than growth. March's registrations totalled 372,835 units, up 1.8% year on year and 20,000 units ahead of the SMMT's forecast. It pointed out that the growth in March comes on top of a weak 2011 perfor-mance and registra-tions in the month still remain some 17% off the pre-recession March 2007 total.Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: "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."Dealer profitability still remains under question, however, as the data shows the B-segment, or supermini, accounted for 37.7% of the Q1 market. It is a segment high in competition for most fran-chises, and which offers relatively poor upfront profit margins for retailers due to the comparatively low purchase prices.Sue Robinson, RMI director of the National Fran-chised Dealers Association, said the increase in retail car sales highlights the early signs of a more stable market. She described the March result as one of the best monthly increases for private demand in two years.Robinson added: "March is typically a strong month for new car registrations with the plate change boosting sales. However the strong increase in private registrations shows some signs of economic Top 10 models in March by UK regionClick here March 2012new car regs by UK regionClick here New car sales increase by 0.9% year-on-year in Q1 - beating SMMT predictionsPrivate registration growth delivers market stability Sue Robinson: 'Signs of economic recovery'Continues over

recovery with consumers feeling confident enough to commit to purchasing a big ticket item. In order for the market to remain stable, the Government should offer support by reviewing schemes that could improve consumer confidence and boost spending."The risersTake a look at the percentage change year-to-date column and it is striking just how many brands are on the warpath this year - 22 in fact. While the youthful or rejuvenated brands SsangYong, MG, Chrysler and Infiniti are the industry's fastest growers, more important is the strong growth being achieved by several of the more seasoned carmakers.Skoda's Q1 registrations have risen 24.2% year-on-year to win it a 2.46% share of the market, and industry observers can expect its growth to be sustained as its strong incentives are matched by product range expansion. Nissan, too, has ramped up sales, adding one more registration to every four achieved in Q1 last year. A major supplier to the Motability scheme, its Qashqai currently ranks as New car marketBritain's sixth most popular new car.Suzuki is also notable for its progress in Q1. After a low period last year while hurt by supply constraints and currency issues, the retail-focused Japanese brand has grown 12.5% this year. Its popular Swift Sport has now been on sale for two months while a VAT-free campaign and added-value Alto Play special edition have played to cost-conscious customers.The fallersSeeing Daihatsu and Saab as the greatest fallers is New car registrationsSource: www.smmt.co.ukMarch Total Diesel Petrol AFV Private Fleet Business2012 372,835 181,368 186,047 5,420 189,487 165,576 17,7722011 366,101 174,165 186,610 5,326 176,443 166,357 23,301% change 1.8% 4.1% -0.3% 1.8% 7.4% -0.5% -23.7%Mkt share '12 48.6% 49.9% 1.5% 50.8% 44.4% 4.8%Mkt share '11 47.6% 51.0% 1.5% 48.2% 45.4% 6.4%Full year Total Diesel Petrol AFV Private Fleet Business2012 563,556 283,872 271,486 8,198 265,175 273,368 25,0132011 558,336 271,024 279,550 7,762 250,602 275,369 32,365% change 0.9% 4.7% -2.9% 5.6% 5.8% -0.7% -22.7%Mkt share '12 50.4% 48.2% 1.5% 47.1% 48.5% 4.4%Mkt share '11 48.5% 50.1% 1.4% 44.9% 49.3% 5.8%The Swift Sport has helped Suzuki to 12.5% growth year-on-year so far in 2012Continues overContinues