New car sales drive on to 10-year high

Ford Fiesta supermini was the top-selling car in the UK again last year.

Ford Fiesta supermini was the top-selling car in the UK again last year. - Credit: Ford

New car sales in the UK for 2014 reached a 10-year high. Official figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that 2,476,435 new cars were registered in the UK last year – the most in a calendar year since 2004.

Last year’s new car sales total was the fourth-largest of all time – only 2002, 2003 and 2004 saw more cars registered.

The 2014 market grew 9.3% over the previous year, well ahead of the European Union average of 5.7%, with the UK remaining the second largest market in the EU – behind Germany and ahead of France, Italy and Spain – and recorded second largest growth of these top five EU markets.

Every month in 2014 saw an increase, with December’s 8.7% rise the 34th consecutive month of growth.

There was huge growth for the plug-in electric and hybrid car market, which saw volumes quadruple from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,498 in 2014.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “UK new car registrations returned to pre-recession levels in 2014, as pent-up demand from the recession years, combined with confidence in the economy, saw consumer demand for the latest models grow consistently and strongly.

“The year was particularly strong for alternatively-fuelled vehicles as increased choice, coupled with a growing desire for reduced costs and greater efficiency, resulted in a quadrupling of plug-in car registrations over 2013.

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“With a variety of new plug-in models expected in 2015, this area of the market will continue to grow significantly. For the market as a whole, we expect a more stable 2015 as demand levels off.”

Last year saw a remarkable surge in demand for ultra-low emission vehicles which includes plug-in cars.

Ultra-low emission vehicles offer increased efficiency and reduced running costs, and increasing consumer awareness has driven registrations upwards.

Consumers are faced with a burgeoning choice when it comes to ultra-low emission vehicles – there are now more than 20 models available to buy, compared with just six in 2011. Body styles include hatchbacks, sport utility vehicles and coupés.

Each of the 10 best-selling brands in the UK now has a ultra-low emission vehicle in its model range.

The UK car market has seen the second-largest level of growth in Europe at 9.3%, with a national scrapping scheme making Spain the only market in the EU top five to exceed the UK’s level of growth by posting an 18.1% increase.

Moderate growth was seen in most of Europe’s largest markets – France (1.1%), Germany (2.6%) and Italy (4.3%).

The past 15 years have seen a shift in the types of cars that people are buying, with two trends particularly evident.

As buyers seek lower running costs, demand for small cars – mini and supermini segments – has grown. The latest small cars offer significant advances in comfort and safety levels.

A more recent trend is the strong growth of the dual purpose – 4x4, crossovers ans sport utility vehicles – and multi-purpose segments, with buyers attracted by the extra space, style and versatility offered by these models.

A decade of sales figures

After reaching the 2.5 million mark in the early part of the last decade, sales were badly hit by the recession which started in 2008.

With consumer confidence dented, new registrations dipped below two million in both 2009 and 2011 before recovering in 2012 and 2013.

These are the annual new car registration figures for recent years:

? 2004 – 2,567,269.

? 2005 – 2,439,717.

? 2006 – 2,344,864.

? 2007 – 2,404,007.

? 2008 – 2,131,795.

? 2009 – 1,994,999.

? 2010 – 2,030,846.

? 2011 – 1,941,253.

? 2012 – 2,044,609.

? 2013 – 2,264,737.

? 2014 – 2,476,435.