UK Car Sales Hit Record High in 2016

New cars sales in the UK hit an all-time high in 2016.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), has reported 2.69 million cars were registered last year, 2% higher than in 2015.

The industry body attributed the figures to "very strong" consumer confidence, low-interest finance deals and the launch of several new models. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV's) saw a rise in demand of over 22%, with 10,000 motorists going fully electric - an increase of 3.3% on 2105.

However, the report did some with a warning. 2017 is unlikely to set another record; sales are expected to fall by 5-6%.

There was a positive message however. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said such a fall would not represent "a collapse in the market" and sales would still be at "historically an incredibly high level". According to Mr Hawes, five consecutive years of increased sales had been generated by pent-up demand that developed during the economic crisis which started in 2008.

Samuel Tombs, UK economist at Pantheon, said: "Looking ahead, the stagnation of households' real incomes this year, mainly due to a burst of inflation, likely will weigh further on car purchases." He added that interest rates on unsecured loans were unlikely to become more competitive in the immediate future and that would remove another one of the incentives to buy a new car.

Brexit impact

The SMMT has pointed out that car prices were beginning to rise in 2015. This is due to the fall in the value of the pound resulting from the Brexit vote having increased prices by 2-3%. More than 85% of new cars bought in the UK are imported.

The SMMT added that the UK new car market was one of the most diverse in the world, with some 44 brands offering nearly 400 different model types.

By Tracey McBain