New car sales made a “very solid start” to the year after industry figures showed registrations hitting an 11-year high last month.
A total of 169,678 new cars were registered in the UK in January, up by almost 3 per cent compared with a year earlier.
That was the highest sales figure for January since 2005, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Last year saw the highest number of cars ever sold in the UK – up 6.3 per cent on 2014’s total to some 2.6 million.
North of the Border, year-on-year sales grew by 2 per cent last month to 12,778 units.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “January’s solid performance puts the new car sector in a good position to start the year. Providing consumer confidence remains strong, we expect a more stable 12 months ahead, broadly similar to 2015 which was, of course, a record year.”
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at forecasting consultancy IHS Global Insight, said the industry had enjoyed a very solid start to 2016, noting that the prospects for consumer spending remained healthy.
He said: “The economic fundamentals still look largely healthy for the motor industry which will hopefully allow car sales to hold up at an elevated level over 2016.
“Car sales will also likely continue to be buoyed by attractive offers and finance packages. Furthermore, low petrol prices can only help matters, as can the increased likelihood that the Bank of England will not be raising interest rates until at least late on this year, if not 2017.”
But Archer added: “A potential concern for the car industry is that increasing uncertainties over the economic outlook could cause fleet operators (which led car sales growth in 2015) to be more cautious in their purchases of new vehicles.”
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers across the UK, said: “It is extremely positive to see that the car market in January has continued its upward trend – making it the best month for new car registrations since 2005.
“Consumer confidence continues to grow as the economy becomes more robust, and customers feel secure enough to commit to buying cars. This is helped by the competitive offers made available by the manufacturer and a more disposable income due to higher levels of employment.”
However, the latest figures revealed that Volkswagen car sales fell in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal – down 13.9 per cent compared with January 2015.
Other VW brands also struggled, with Seat registrations falling by 24.6 per cent and Skoda down by 2.4 per cent.
But there was better news for Audi, which experienced a 1.4 per cent year-on-year rise last month. The best selling model in the UK was the Ford Fiesta, while in Scotland the Vauxhall Corsa came top.
Alternative-fuel vehicles also grew in popularity – and market share – with registrations up by 32.1 per cent on January 2015, to account for a record 3.6 per cent of registrations. Petrol hybrids showed the largest growth – up 44.1 per cent to 3,783 cars.
SCOTLAND’S BEST-SELLING CARS IN JANUARY
1. Vauxhall Corsa – 754
2. Vauxhall Mokka – 498
3. Vauxhall Astra – 447
4. Ford Fiesta – 385
5. Fiat 500 – 313
6. Volkswagen Polo – 296
7. Dacia Sandero – 228
8. Vauxhall Viva – 225
9. Ford Focus – 224
10. Nissan Qashqai – 215