UK new car sales reach a record 2.63m


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 low-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 alternatively fuelled vehicles grew by 40.3% last year, securing the biggest ever market share of 2.8%.

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