New car sales race to record 1.3m
The number of new cars sold in the UK reached a record 1.3 million in the first six months of the year, new figures have shown.
The total of 1,376,889 was 7% higher than the same period last year, with increasing numbers of motorists buying British-made models.
Around one in six buyers chose a UK-manufactured vehicle so far this year - the highest level in five years, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Low interest rates and attractive finance deals, combined with a stream of new models featuring the latest technologies, have continued to encourage consumers to purchase new cars, said the SMMT.
June marked the 40th consecutive month of growth in the new car market with a 12.9% increase over the same month last year to 257,817 vehicles.
The SMMT also reported a strong surge in demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles last month.
Fleet registrations continue to drive the growth in new car sales, although the SMMT said registrations to private customers remained strong.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "It is still a great time to buy a new car in the UK, and it is encouraging to see more consumers choosing British models.
"This is important for the wider economy, with 799,000 people now employed across the UK automotive sector, including retail.
"We anticipate a flatter second half of the year as the market finds its natural running rate."
The Ford Fiesta has been the best selling car so far this year (71,990), followed by the Vauxhall Corsa (50,125), Ford Focus (45,078) and VW Golf (38,261).
Richard Lowe, head of retail at Barclays, said: "Forty consecutive months of car registrations growth along with confirmation of a record half-year are remarkable achievements and come hot on the trail of last week's news that the UK automotive sector achieved its highest ever turnover in 2014, giving the industry yet more reasons to celebrate.
"Despite uncertainty in the eurozone, June's figures demonstrate a robustness in the new car market. The challenge now will be to try to sustain this during the second half of the year."
David Bruce, director of AA Cars, said that 1.3 million new cars sold in the first six months of 2015 "means improved safety on our roads and cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles improving air quality in our neighbourhoods".
He added: "Today's new cars are better than ever.
"They are technologically advanced to reduce injuries in the event of collisions and the latest engine technology makes them cleaner and more fuel efficient."