January new car sales at 11-year high

New UK vehicle registrations in January rose to an 11-year-high of 169,978.

A 2.9% increase on registrations in January 2015 meant that the market began at its highest since 181,474 new cars were registered in January 2005.

The best selling car of January 2016 was the Ford Fiesta, with 8,353 units sold. Second place was the Nissan Qashqai, with 4,839 sold, while the Vauxhall Corsa was the third highest selling.

This growth was primarily driven by private and business buyers, with demand for new cars up in both business sectors, while the fleet sector slightly declined. The rising demand meant January 2016 saw the highest number of new cars registered to private buyers in January since 2004.

Alternative-fuel vehicles also grew in popularity, with registrations up by 32.1% on January 2015, and accounting for a record 3.6% of registrations. Petrol hybrids showed the largest growth, while the demand for plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars enjoyed an uplift. Diesel retained the majority market share, but saw slim growth, while petrol registrations grew 3.7%.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, 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.’

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, added, ‘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 continued to grow as the economy becomes more robust, and retail 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.

‘We expect the market to continue to perform well and to build on the success of 2015.’

Steve Jackson, chief car editor at Glass’s, also said it met the vehicle data firm’s forecasts, and were forecasting further growth for the rest of 2016.

He said, ‘New car registrations hit an 11 year high for January 2016, as earlier forecast by Glass’s. Consumer demand has broadly driven the increase with a number of new models available. This, combined with low interest rates and creative finance campaigns with PCP, have helped drive this record number.

‘Glass’s continue to watch the market closely, forecasting a 3% growth, and have also witnessed larger numbers of used vehicles in the wholesale market from dealers and captive finance companies as well as fleet vendors compared to the same period 2015.’