Official car sales figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) suggest that the new car market could break the 100,000 mark this year - for the first time since 2008.

Figures for car sales in March show that 14,356 vehicles were sold during the month, bringing the first quarter total to 49,960.

The big three sellers were Golf, Qashqai and Focus.

It was also good news in the commercial vehicle sales market, which saw an increase of 43% for the quarter and with sales of 1,831 units for March, an increase of 45 percent compared to March 2013.

The top-selling van was the Transit.

Ford Ireland boss Eddie Murphy said: "In common with other sectors of the economy, the motor industry has endured a really tough time in recent years.

"So it is heartening to see the continued increase in car sales that has produced a first quarter tally of almost 50,000 cars.

"If the trend continues, we are sure to hit and even pass the 100,000 sales figure for 2014.

"However, even though the increase in car sales will attract all the headlines, it's the growth in new commercial sales that is the greatest cause for optimism. If small and medium-sized businesses are investing in vans, they must be confident of growth in their businesses, and that augurs well for Ireland Inc."

Overall, Volkswagen has claimed the number one spot for passenger cars in March with 12.56% of the market.

VW's Golf was the top selling model in first quarter with 2,491 units. 

Volkswagen cars in March had 1,803 registrations and 6,093 in total after the first three months of the year, according to figures supplied by SIMI. 

Paul Burke, Operations Director for Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said: "We are delighted with the results to date, plus we have a very strong order bank and plenty of showroom activity.

"The Golf remains the best-selling car in Ireland, too, after the first quarter, and we are delighted with the huge demand for this car, which is now celebrating its 40th birthday."