Official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show new car registrations in the UK rose 11.5% in March, compared to a year earlier, totalling 283,964 vehicles.
However, that is still -36.9% lower than the 10-year March average.
The SMMT has said the UK will need to log 8,300 registrations a day needed in order to return to average pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.
But April is expected to set new growth records, given dealerships are allowed to re-open to the public as part of wider easing of Covid restrictions across England on 12 April.
Mike Hawes, the SMMT chief executive, said: “The past year has been the toughest in modern history and the automotive sector has, like many others, been hit hard.
“However, with showrooms opening in less than a week, there is optimism that consumer confidence – and hence the market – will return.
“We know we will see record breaking growth next month given April 2020 was a washout, but a strong and sustainable market is possible if customers are attracted to the choice and competitive offer the industry is able to provide within the safest of showroom environments.
“New plug-in models are already helping drive a recovery but to convince more retail consumers to make the switch, they must be assured these new technologies will be convenient for their driving needs and that means, above all, that the charging infrastructure is there where they need it, and when they need it.”