New car registrations at highest since 2008 with percentage rise highest for 11 years with demand rising for fuel-efficient cars
UK car sales have posted their largest year-on-year increase in more than a decade, and attained their highest volume since the credit crunch, after more than 2m vehicles were sold last last year.
The car manufacturing industry in Britain has been at the forefront of a political push for a “march of the makers”, but the domestic market has also performed well. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said new car registrations, a proxy for sales, rose 5.3% in 2012 to 2.04m units. The sales volume was the highest since 2008, while the percentage increase was the highest since 2001. However, the market is still almost 15% – 360,000 cars – below its pre-crash peak in 2007.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said interest in new and innovative cars had kept up demand. “Boosted by strong consumer demand, the market grew at its fastest rate for 11 years with innovative, fuel-efficient cars keeping buyers in showrooms,” he said.
The biggest seller was the Ford Fiesta, which sold more than 109,000 units, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa with 89,000 units and the Ford Focus on 83,000. Only two of the top 10 vehicles were made in the UK. The Vauxhall Astra – made in Ellesmere Port – came in fourth with 63,000 units, with the Nissan Qashqai, made in the UK’s largest car factory in Sunderland, achieving a sixth-placed ranking with 45,000 sales. Sales of UK-built cars rose 11% in 2012. The remaining UK-manufactured vehicles are exported, with more than eight out of 10 British-made vehicles sold abroad. Those include Jaguar Land Rover cars such as the Evoque – not in the domestic top 10 – that is reportedly taking China by storm.
Neil King, automotive analyst at Euromonitor International, said 2012 will be followed by a tougher 12 months. He said: “At face value, the 5% growth in new car registrations in the UK in 2012 is promising, especially in the context of falling sales in the four major European markets. Demand fell 3% in Germany and there were even double-digit declines in France, Spain and Italy. However, the growth in new car sales was on the back of a decline in 2011 following the VAT hike and with the economic recovery remaining stubbornly fragile and child benefit cuts further squeezing many household budgets, car sales face another challenging year in 2013.”
Elsewhere in the figures, diesel cars took a record 50.8% market share, with sales of just over 1m compared with 978,000 petrol vehicles. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric cars, increased by 9.4% to almost 28,000, achieving a new record market share of 1.4%. Private sales of new cars increased from 823,000 to 929,000, fleet sales increased by 0.6% to just over 1m, while business sales fell by 9.5% to just under 90,000.