March 1 is T-Day and six months later in September the registration moves on to V.
But analysts fear it will be a damp squib as the motor industry has not done enough to make consumers aware of the new system.
The motor industry had campaigned hard for the change, saying the August changeover put enormous pressure on manufacturers to produce one third of the year's output for one month.
But according to CAP Motor Research, while fleet managers were aware of the change, private purchasers were not. "People are still thinking that if they need a new car they should wait until August," said Ramesh Notra, an economist for CAP.
According to its market research, 310,000 vehicles will be sold next month compared with 230,000 in March 1998, which was a good figure for that month. It is forecasting 370,000 in September which will benefit from people used to buying in August.
This will be cold comfort for retailers and car makers. January saw a 21 per cent fall in new car registrations while motor vehicle production hit an all-time low for the month.
CAP said it was concerned that the inevitable efforts to encourage new car sales with cheap packages will undermine the market for nearly-new cars.The industry claims not to be worried about the January figures, saying it was a result of buyers postponing purchases ahead of the March 1 date.
New mass-market models to tempt buyers include the Ford Focus, Peugeot 206, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Astra. Rover's new 75, which last week won the What Car best car of the year, is not due to go on sale until June.Reuse content