SMMT: New car sales just had the best January in 11 years

Emma Haslett
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New car sales jumped in January (Source: Getty)

A whopping 169,678 new cars were sold in the UK in January, according to new data - meaning new car sales had their best January in 11 years.

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed registrations increased 2.9 per cent in January.

Most of the growth was driven (see what we did there...) by private and business buyers, with registrations rising 8.2 per cent and five per cent respectively.

But sales of "alternatively-fuelled" vehicles (read: electric cars and hybrids) also rocketed, rising 32.1 per cent to 6,075, giving them a record 3.2 per cent market share.

The lion's share of that increase was in petrol hybrids, where registrations rose 44.1 per cent to 3,783, while 14.1 per cent more electric cars were bought (although that made up a paltry 584 units).

The UK's favourite car remained the Ford Fiesta, with 8,353 cars registered in January. And controversial though it may be, Volkswagen brands retained three of the top 10 spots, with the Golf, the Polo and the Audi A3.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, cautioned that sales appeared to be reaching a peak.

"The year-over-year growth rate was flattered by a weak level of sales in January 2015. Consumer confidence remains high, and falling petrol prices have made car ownership more attractive.

"But the real driver of the surge in car sales over the last three years has been the declining cost of unsecured credit. Borrowing costs have now reached a floor, with the average quoted interest rate for a £10,000 personal loan rising to 4.49 per cent in December, from a record low of 4.25 per cent in August. Growth in car sales therefore looks likely to moderate, contributing to a slowdown in the recovery of overall consumer spending this year."

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