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UK new car sales reach a record 2.63m

Published 07/01/2016

There is expected to be a rise of around 6% in sales of new cars
There is expected to be a rise of around 6% in sales of new cars

New car sales reached an all-time high last year, official data has revealed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) announced that more than 2.63 million cars were registered in the UK in 2015.

This is an increase of 6.3% on 2014. The previous record was set in 2003 at 2.58 million.

Last month also broke the record for December sales, up 8.4% on the previous year at 180,077.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said high consumer confidence, wage growth and l ow-interest finance deals have encouraged motorists to buy new cars.

The fourth consecutive year of growth means sales have exceeded their pre-recession levels after dipping below two million in both 2009 and 2011.

Some 43 consecutive months of growth in year-on-year sales ended in October, but this was followed by a 3.8% rise in November and a bumper December.

Mr Hawes said he has " every reason to expect the market to hold broadly steady in 2016".

In the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen car sales fell by 0.4% in December compared with the same month in 2014. The brand experienced a 20% decrease in registrations in November.

For the year as a whole Volkswagen sales were up by 4.2% compared with 2014.

There were mixed results for other VW brands last month, with Seat down by 46.4% but Audi up by 14.1% and Skoda by 4.2%.

The 2015 market share of all diesel cars fell from 50.1% to 48.5%.

Mr Hawes said: " There has been a lot of comment and concern around air quality and diesel.

"I think the fact that the market for diesel has held up demonstrates that, for a lot of consumers, they are still driven by fuel economy and diesel offers better fuel economy."

Demand for a lternatively fuelled vehicles grew by 40.3% last year, securing the biggest ever market share of 2.8%.

This was led by volumes for p lug-in hybrids more than doubling, while pure electric vehicles saw an uplift of around 50%.

The best selling car of 2015 was the F ord Fiesta at 133,434 sales.

This was followed by the Vauxhall Corsa at 92,077 and the Ford Focus at 83,816.

John Leech, head of automotive at accountancy firm KPMG, said the industry's record sales figures were a result of consumer confidence being "finally back to pre-financial crisis levels", the strength of the pound leading to lower prices and the availability of cheap credit.

He added: " It is unlikely all these factors will recur again throughout 2016 so my forecast is that new car sales will slip back 1% in 2016, with the first half of the year stronger than the second half."

Demand for commercial vehicles also reached an all-time high, up 16.7% on 2014 to 423,894 vans and trucks.

Mr Hawes said this was due to growing demand for online shopping deliveries.

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