Holden, General Motors' Australian subsidiary, has achieved its highest first quarter sales in company history, driven by record first quarter sales for its light truck range.

Figures released on Monday by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showed Holden has now sold 42,768 vehicles for 2004, 7% more than in 2003, and is second overall behind Toyota.

Holden set an all-time March record of 16,503 units, achieving market share of 19.2%, including market-leading performances in the passenger and light truck segments.

The Australian-made, Commodore-based Holden Ute and Isuzu-built Rodeo ranges both set March records, the Ute breaking through 2000 sales for the first time in history.

Holden achieved passenger market share of 21.7% with 11,645 sales and light truck sales of 28.9% with sales of 4332. The Commodore sold 7,206 units and there were record sales for three other model lines  - the (rebadged Opel Corsa) Combo, locally-made Caprice and Thai-built Zafira.

The firm's executive director of sales and marketing, Ross McKenzie, said it had revised its 2004 industry forecast to 950,000 from 900,000 and Holden sales forecast to 187,000 from 184,000.

McKenzie also said the market's performance during March, in which sales were up 13% on last year, highlighted the possibility of Australians buying one million cars for the first time.

"This year's sales indicate a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 985,000 sales, excluding any external factors which might come into play later in the year," he said.

"This is an incredible time for the Australian automotive industry, being driven by maturing market tastes which are demanding more and more crossover and light commercial vehicles."