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New Year's Day marks 100 years of new registrations

1 January 2004 marks 100 years of new vehicle registrations in the UK, the anniversary of the day the 1903 Motor Car Act passed into law.

The Motor Car Act legally obliged car, truck and hackney carriage owners to register their vehicles and to display registration plates. At the time, there were around 17,800 vehicles on the road, a figure that had rocketed by nearly 180,000 per cent to around 32 million by the end of 2002.

According to the SMMT, cars have seen the biggest rise, shooting up from around 8,500 in 1904 to 28.5 million in 2002. And by the end of last year, there were still 140 cars on Britain's roads first registered in 1904.

But despite the UK car market heading towards its third successive record year of registrations, growth in the total 'car parc' is easing. While new car registrations for 2003 are expected to hit an all-time high of 2.565 million, registrations are expected to ease to 2.5 million in 2004 and again to 2.4 million in 2005. In 20 years' time, industry experts expect about 32 million cars to be in the road.

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