April 5, 2017 / 4:33 AM / 10 months ago

UK car sales rise 8 pct in March - preliminary data

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) - British new car sales rose by 8 percent in March, usually the top-selling month of the year, compared with the same month last year, according to preliminary data released by an industry body on Wednesday.

Around one in five of all car purchases are made in March as it is only one of two occasions in the year when new licence plates are issued.

Sales are also likely to have been boosted as some consumers and businesses sought to avoid paying an increase in excise duty which came into force from April 1 for the most polluting vehicles.

Demand has continued to rise this year in Europe’s second-biggest autos market, despite forecasts that sales would shrink by around 5 percent after two consecutive years of record highs and as Brexit begins to take its toll on consumer confidence.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is due to publish its final figures at 0800 GMT.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Susan Thomas

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