Despite this, latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show the UK is the second biggest European marker with 2,439,717 units in 2005, behind Germany.
“This shows that, despite tougher times for car dealers, we still have healthy demand,” said SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan.
Macgowan said registration figures for January show the effect on a market when tax changes are not carefully considered.
“Many company car drivers clearly rushed to take advantage of the 3% tax benefit at the end of 2005. This led to the record diesel registrations in December, and today's weaker January market,” said Macgowan.
“It's not surprising that January's new car registrations have got off to a shaky start,” said Sue Robinson, franchised dealer director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF).
She added: “The new vehicle market seems to be following the same trends as the high street. Consumers appear to be delaying major purchases until they have cleared their debts from Christmas, and are awaiting the next interest rate announcement to give them greater certainty in their financial commitments.”