UK becomes second-largest EU car market

BRITAIN is now the second-biggest car market in the EU, according to industry figures released yesterday.

UK new car registrations rose 11.3 per cent year-on-year to 149,191 units in November, thanks to increased demand from private purchasers.

Total car sales are now on track to top 2m in 2012, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), meaning the UK will be one of the few European nations to show sales growth in a troubled year for the industry. Despite this, Germany remains unchallenged as the continent’s biggest car market.

“The upward trend has been driven by private retail customers,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive. “The outlook for 2013 remains challenging, but vehicle manufacturers and their dealers will continue to work hard to attract motorists to their showrooms and deliver outstanding value.”

The Ford Focus was the best-selling new car in November, although the Ford Fiesta retained the top position for the year-to-date with 104,288 sales since January.

The figures also show that last month 79,389 diesel cars were sold in the country, against 67,875 petrol vehicles. Sales of cars using alternative fuels fell year-on-year to just 1,927 units in November.

The full-year market remains on track to be the best since 2008, with sales up 5.4 per cent so far. However volumes remain well below the pre-recession level of 2.4m units per year.

Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said yesterday’s announcement “gives a lift” to hopes that consumers are willing to spend more following improved employment figures and stronger earnings growth.

But he warned that prevailing economic conditions mean the UK motor business cannot be complacent: “A worry for the car industry therefore is that many fleet operators and businesses will delay replacing vehicles to help contain their costs in such a troubling and uncertain economic environment.”

Barclays analyst Richard Lowe also said the sector “will do well to maintain the performance levels seen during 2012” next year.