More UK cars hit the road than ever before for fifth consecutive year
During a tempestuous year when any number of political and economic certainties were stripped away, one of the constants was the yearly increase in UK new car registrations. Statistics released yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, showed a 2.3% rise in new car registrations in 2016, to a total of 2,692,786.
Analysts attributed the ongoing success of the sector to the huge range of brands and models now on offer (the UK’s 44 automotive brands sell over 400 different models), along with easily available and flexible financing options with low interest rates. However, you could also be tempted to attribute it to the continued growth driven by fleet sales, which increased from 1,317,570 in 2015 to 1,380,750 in 2016. Private registration of new cars actually fell slightly by 0.2%, from 1,208,812 to 1,206,250.
Total sales of diesel cars rose by 0.6%, but were slightly outmatched by petrol-powered models, sales of which increased by 2.7%. Registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles – a category encompassing hybrids, electric cars, and other green machines – rose by 22.2% to 72,775, although this still only accounted for a modest 3.3% total share.
The Ford Fiesta remained the UK’s most popular car in 2016, with 120,525 new models registered. It was followed by other long-standing favourites, the Vauxhall Corsa (77,110), Ford Focus (70,545) and Volkswagen Golf (69,492). The only SUV in the top 10 best-sellers was the consistently popular Nissan Qashqai, 62,682 of which were registered during the year. More contenders included the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Polo, the MINI range, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A3. 2017 looks likely to be an equally competitive year for major automotive marques, with at least 70 new car launches planned during the next 12 months.
With interest rates still at historic lows, and more choice being made available to the consumer than ever before, there are still many compelling new reasons to consider buying a new car. But with industry authorities like SMMT advising continued growth is likely to be affected by changes to current trading relations, and the potential imposition of new tariffs raising the cost of new cars for UK drivers, only time will tell. And may be of the essence for this year’s buyers.