The new car market in 2014 was the most successful for 10 years, figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Total registrations for the year were 2,476,435. 2014 was the fourth-largest market since records began. Only 2002, 2003 and 2004 saw more cars registered.
The 2014 market grew 9.3% over 2013. Every month in 2014 saw an increase, with December’s 8.7% rise the 34th consecutive month of growth.
The SMMT's forecast for 2015, first stated in October remains at 2.49m, a 1-2% rise on 2014.
UK new car registrations (rolling year total - 2008 to 2014 with 2015 forecast
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. 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."
The UK car market has seen the second-largest level of growth in Europe, 3.6% greater than the EU average of 5.7%.
The UK remains second largest market in EU (behind Germany and ahead of France, Italy and Spain), and recorded second-largest growth of these top five EU markets.
There was also significant growth in the plug-in car market, which saw volumes quadruple from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,498 in 2014.
The best seller last year was the Ford Fiesta (131,254 units), followed by the Ford Focus (85,140) and Vauxhall Corsa (81,783).
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) and multi-purpose segments, with buyers attracted by the extra space, style and versatility offered by these models.
Share of UK new car market by segment: 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014
Best sellers (December)
1. Vauxhall Corsa
2. Ford Fiesta
3. Ford Focus
5. Vauxhall Astra
6. Vauxhall Mokka
7. Volkswagen Golf
8. BMW 3 Series
9. Volkswagen Polo
Best sellers (2014)
1. Ford Fiesta
2. Ford Focus
3. Vauxhall Corsa
4. Volkswagen Golf
5. Vauxhall Astra
6. Nissan Qashqai
7. Volkswagen Polo
8. Audi A3
9. Fiat 500
Tim Smith, head of motor finance, North & major groups, at Black Horse, said of the December market: “The last month of car sales for 2014 has ended on a bumper high with the 34th consecutive month of increased new car sales.
"The sharp drop in oil prices since June last year has played a positive role in the manufacturing and production of affordable new cars alongside a low interest rate environment for consumers, leading to them feel confident in taking the next step to buying a new car. Showrooms are continuing to work hard to offer good deals, to drive 64 plate cars off their forecourts so we should see a good footfall into dealerships in early January."