Record sales in November have confirmed 2001 as the best-ever year for registrations, passing the 1989 figure with one month to go. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders now believes the year's total could exceed 2.4m.
Global economic uncertainty seems to have so far bypassed the UK motor retail industry as November sales rose 13.3% to 184,278 units. Year-to-date registrations stand at 2,332,303 compared to 2,300,944 for the whole of 1989.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "Yet another record month is truly an amazing result - all the more encouraging considering predictions of an inevitable sales slump by some commentators. There is no sign of a slowdown.
"We could see more than 2.4m car sales by the end of 2001." Alan Pulham, franchised dealer director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, is similarly bullish.
"Low interest rates, incentives and consumer confidence continue to fuel buoyant car sales. With the good deals being offered by car dealers, we have all the ingredients for continued confidence and high retail sales in the new car market," he said.
The SMMT is forecasting a modest slowdown in sales next year to 2.22m cars.
This is based on the assumption that the UK is unlikely to remain immune from the global economic slowdown.
Low interest rates have helped to fuel this year's boom with growth in November again concentrated in the private sector.
Private buyers accounted for 49.2% of the market, an increase of 25.1% over the corresponding month last year - which itself was up by one-third over November 1999.
Some analysts suggest that the surge in retail sales has been caused by the increasing number of user-choosers opting out of company cars and buying their own.
Despite the apparent trend to take the cash-for-cars option, fleet sales were up 1.7% and business sales up by 18.9%.
Demand for diesel remains strong, up 64.6% in November to 40,297 units, and 38.6% year-to-date to 410,373 units. The top six carmakers remain the same as October, but BMW jumps from 11th to 7th with a strong showing from the facelifted 3 Series - the eight best selling model last month.
New Mini continues its sales success, climbing to 15th place with 2,965 sales - its three-month sales total is 9,048. Skoda is also climbing the table, up to 16th spot from 18th with 2,853 registrations in November.
Mazda, which in the first half of the year saw sales down by almost 50%, is clawing its way back with a 1% market share for the first time this year, which moves it from 29th to 22nd.
Registrations of UK-built cars dipped to 23.3% of the market from 27.5% last year, despite big gains by Jaguar (up 47% for the year) and Land Rover (17%). Peugeot's Ryton-built 206 maintains its position as the UK's third best selling car.