New car sales slowed last month, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed today.
There were 61,868 new registrations in February 2012 - a drop of 2.5% on the February 2011 figure.
"The February new car market was broadly in line with industry expectations, with a welcome increase in private retail activity," said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt.
Sales over the first two months of this year are just 0.8% down on the January-February 2011 total, with the industry hoping that next month, when new number plates go on sale, will boost registrations.
Around 350,000 new "12-plate" cars are expected to be registered next month, about 2% below the March 2011 figure.
Mr Everitt said: "The March market will provide a much better indicator of industry health than the relatively low volumes traditionally seen in February.
"It is extremely important that the Chancellor uses this month's Budget to strengthen consumer and business confidence by encouraging private sector investment and avoiding any further squeeze on living standards."
Private sales were up 0.6% last month and are up 2.1% for the year so far.
Diesel car registrations rose by 4.9% in February 2012, which pushed their market share to 53.9%, compared with 50.1% a year ago.
The SMMT reckons total sales this year will reach 1.92 million compared with 1.94 million in 2011.
The Ford Focus was the best selling model in February 2012, ending an 11-month run at the top for the Ford Fiesta.