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Demand for SUVs drives new car sales growth

Demand for SUVs increased over 15 per cent, led by Mazda's CX-5.

Buyers went mad for vehicles in March and sent sales soaring 8 per cent over the same period last year, overturning months of flat demand.

The total of 105,054 registrations was one of the best ever and confirms an upswing in February, following a Reserve Bank interest rate cut.

The figures, obtained by News Corp Australia ahead of their official release next Tuesday, show a broad-based rebound among private and business buyers and across all vehicle types.

One in every three vehicles registered is now a high-rider.

SUVs accounted for the bulk of the additional 7800 sales with demand up 15.3 per cent, led by Mazda's CX-5.

One in every three vehicles registered is now a high-rider.

However, the Toyota HiLux spearheaded a resurgence in light-commercial demand, with 2000 additional private buyers cancelling out a fall in business purchases. Rather than looking to utes, fleets bought an extra 1400 passenger cars over the same month last year in a rare boost for the traditional format.

Toyota's Corolla, which was March best-seller with almost 4300 sales, and the company's locally built Camry, with deliveries up 11 per cent over last year, were two of the main beneficiaries.

But Holden and Ford's Australian-made vehicles failed to fire, with the recently refreshed Falcon finding only 700 buyers and Commodore sales slipping 18 per cent.

Ford's Melbourne-made Territory SUV also missed out on the sunshine, with sales down 15 per cent, while Holden's Adelaide-built small car, the Cruze, slumped 24 per cent.

Most mainstream carmakers had a strong month but luxury brands were among the biggest winners

As all three Australian makers prepare to halt production over the next two years, fewer than one in 12 vehicles sold is made locally.

Most mainstream carmakers had a strong month but luxury brands were among the biggest winners, with Mercedes recording a 30 per cent increase and its second-highest number of registrations ever.

The new Mercedes C-Class, which this week was awarded the World Car of the Year accolade during a ceremony in New York, is on a roll and outsold all other mid-size cars at any price except the Camry.

Most premium makers outperformed the overall market, with demand for Lexus and BMW both up 14 per cent. Land Rover was up 19 per cent, Audi 22 per cent, Porsche 87 per cent and Maserati tripling its sales compared with March last year.