LONDON -- British new-car sales rose 1.8 percent on the year in the key month of March to 372,835 vehicles, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.
March is typically the busiest month for registrations, accounting for 18 percent of the full year's volume on average.
"The important March new-car market performed above expectations. Domestic demand for new cars is showing signs of recovery," said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt in a statement issued Thursday.
First-quarter volumes also rose 0.9 percent to 563,556 registrations on the back of better-than-expected activity in March, SMMT said.
The UK joined Germany in bucking the downward trend in car sales last month. Registrations in Europe's biggest market rose 3.4 percent to 339,123 in March. In the first three months, registrations increased 1.3 percent to 773,636.
The UK's March rise in car sales contrasted with France, Italy and Spain where volumes dropped last month.
In Italy, new-car sales fell 26.7 percent to 138,137, with volumes in the first three months were down 20.9 percent. An auto transport truckers strike, combined with a slow economy, has hit Italian sales.
French car and light commercial vehicle sales declined 22 percent to 233,526 in March. First-quarter deliveries of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles fell 20 percent to 610,161.
In Spain, registrations dropped 4.5 percent to 84,427 last month. Volume in the quarter fell by 1.9 percent to 204,119.
Europe's auto market is set to decrease 5 percent this year because of weak economic growth, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said last week.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report