March 6, 2017 / 9:22 AM / 5 months ago

UK new car sales dip in February, pickup seen in March - SMMT

Cars are displayed outside a Volvo showroom in west London, Britain October 4, 2013.Luke MacGregor/File photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations fell by an annual 0.3 percent to 83,115 units in February, driven down by weaker demand from individuals and companies, but sales are expected to pick up in March, a car industry body said on Monday.

Private demand fell 4.4 percent to 36,018 units and business registrations declined 5.3 percent to 1,398 units. Fleet sales, typically to car rentals firms, rose 3.3 percent to 45,699 cars, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

Analysts predict the British car market, Europe's second largest, will shrink by about 5 percent in 2017 after two years of record demand, due to the Brexit-related fall in the pound pushing up the price of some models and wider economic uncertainty linked to Britain's split from the European Union.

Over the first two months of the year, registrations were up 1.8 percent at 257,679, SMMT said.

February is one of the quietest months of the year for the car market and SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said he expected a bounce in March with the launch of 2017 number plates.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Alistair Smout

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