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Another record year for UK new car sales

The UK new car market hit a new record level in 2016, with annual registrations climbing for the fifth year in a row to almost 2.7 million vehicles.

Buyers were attracted by a range of new car models and attractive finance deals, pushing registrations to 2,692,786 in 2016 – up 2.3% on the previous year and broadly in line with expectations, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders.

Fleets were responsible for most of the growth, with demand growing to a record 1.38 million units. However, the private market remains at a historically high level, with more than 1.2 million retail buyers registering a new car in 2016. The competitive range of affordable finance was a key factor driving private demand, as consumers were able to take advantage of low interest rates and flexible payment options.

“Despite 2016’s political and economic uncertainties, the new car market delivered another record performance as car makers offered an incredible range of innovative and high tech models,” Mike Hawes, the Chief Executive of the SMMT, said. “2017 may well be more challenging as sterling depreciation raises the price of imported goods but, with interest rates still at historic lows and a range of new models arriving, there are still many reasons for consumers to consider a new car.

“Looking longer term, the strength of the market will rest on our ability to maintain our current trading relations and, in particular, avoid tariff barriers which could add significantly to the cost of new cars.”

The UK new car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with some 44 brands offering nearly 400 different model types, and almost 70 new launches are already planned for the year.