New car sales hit four-year high

More than two million new cars were sold in the UK last year, up 5.3% on 2011 and the highest number since the recession hit in 2008. The figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) also showed the UK new car market is growing at the highest rate for over a decade.

However, new car registrations are still 14.9% below the pre-recession total in 2007, when 2.4 million new cars were bought. But the increase, driven by private demand as opposed to fleet buyers, has been welcomed by the industry.

New Car Sales Rise

Increased fuel efficiency and the lower maintenance costs associated with today’s new cars are becoming more attractive to buyers who may have postponed purchasing in recent years because of steep running costs.

Diesel cars took a record 50.8% market share in 2012, up 0.2% on the year before. However, growth in this class has slowed from previous years, possibly reflecting the rising costs of diesel compared to petrol. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric, rose 9.4% on 2011, taking the market share to a new high of 1.4%.

‘Superminis’ continue to be the most popular new car, making up 36.4% of all new car sales in 2012. Britain’s most popular car model continues to be the Ford Fiesta, a position it has held since 2009. This is followed by the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus.

The most popular medium-sized car is the Vauxhall Astra, while the Nissan Qashqai is the most popular MPV. The BMW 3 series and Mercedes C-Class are the most popular ‘executive’ vehicles.

Ford continues its dominance in the UK new car market, with a 13.8% market share, followed by Vauxhall (11.4%) and Volkswagen (9.0%). Land Rover gained a large rise in market share, up from 1.9% in 2011 to 2.4% in 2012. The marque’s increased popularity was mainly driven by the introduction of the new Range Rover Evoque, assembled at the company's Halewood plant in Merseyside.

New car registrations dipped in December 2012 compared to the year’s average, but were still 3.7% ahead of December 2011. However, there is still some way to go before we see a full recovery in the market, and this year’s figures will be closely scrutinised.

Keep up to date with the MoneySupermarket Motor Blog for developments over the coming year.

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