2015 was a record year for new car registrations - but VW has lost

Emma Haslett
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Volkswagen To Announce Annual Results
Demand for new cars rose 8.4 per cent in 2015 (Source: Getty)

Everyone's a petrolhead now.

The year 2015 was a record year for new car registrations, new figures have shown, with 2.63m new vehicles registered during the year - up 6.3 per cent from last year.

That was boosted by December - the biggest on record - during which 180,077 new cars were registered, up 8.4 per cent from the same month last year.

The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which published the figures, said growth in the market smashed expectations - and also breezed past the previous record year in 2003, when 2.59m new cars were registered.

According to the organisation, this is only the fourth time the market has surpassed 2.5m new vehicles in a full year.

But it wasn't such a good month for troubled Volkswagen: the manufacturer took just one of the top 10 spots in December, down from three (when you factor in Audi, which it owns) in October.

VW has struggled in recent months, after US regulators discovered some of its vehicles were fitted with a device allowing them to cheat emissions tests. Earlier this week it was slapped with a lawsuit which could cost it as much as $90bn (£61.7bn).

VW's changing fortunes: Top 10 best-sellers then and now

October 2015 December 2015
1. Ford Fiesta 1. Ford Fiesta
2. Vauxhall Corsa 2. Vauxhall Corsa
3. Volkswagen Golf 3. Mini
4. Ford Focus 4. Ford Focus
5. Nissan Qashqai 5. Volkswagen Golf
6. Audi A3 6. Vauxhall Mokka
7. Volkswagen Polo 7. Vauxhall Astra
8. Nissan Juke 8. BMW 3 Series
9. BMW 1 Series 9. BMW 1 Series
10. BMW 3 Series 10. Nissan Qashqai

“The new car market defied expectations in 2015, hitting an all time record driven by strong consumer and business confidence," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT.

"Buyers took advantage of attractive finance deals and low inflation to secure some of the most innovative, high tech and fuel efficient vehicles ever produced. The past four years have seen a remarkable period of sustained growth, and the outlook remains positive with every reason to expect the market to hold broadly steady in 2016.”

But John Leech, UK head of automotive at KPMG, pointed out that we may have reached peak car registration.

"UK new car sales have surely reached their plateau," he said.

"Sterling was 12 per cent higher compared to the euro on average in 2015 which enabled vehicle manufacturers to offer higher incentives to consumers and dealers alike throughout 2015, and this is set to continue in the first quarter of 2016.

"Cheap finance in the form of Personal Car Plans (PCPs) remain attractive and the strength of used vehicle residual values has meant that many car manufacturers have bought back cars well before the PCP deal has expired further accelerating sales in 2015. It is unlikely all these factors will recur again throughout 2016 so my forecast is that new car sales will slip back 1 per cent in 2016, with the first half of the year stronger than the second half."

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