Booming sales in the UK's new car market resulted more than 2.4 million vehicles being registered in 2014, up by over nine per cent on the previous year
Steve Cropley Autocar
7 January 2015

Sales of cars in the UK reached a post-recession peak of 2.47 million cars in 2014, the fourth best year on record, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The figure, up 9.3 per cent on 2013, was the best since several boom years a decade ago, and takes the car market close to the outright record scored in 1972 when manufacturers such as BL, Ford and Vauxhall were still making most of the cars Britons bought.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described the market as "incredibly strong - stronger than expected".

Monthly sales had been exceeding the previous year's figures for nearly three years, he added, buoyed by a boom in PCP financing and especially strong demand for SUVs and superminis.

About one seventh of the cars bought by today's Britons were made here, the ruling figure for the past few years. The total of cars made in the UK had yet to be finalised, Hawes said, but manufacturing was still on track to reach the predicted record of two million cars in 2017, about 80 per cent of which would be exported - half to Europe and the rest to the wider world, principally the US and China.

Sales of 'plug-in vehicles', which the SMMT defines as pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, were four times greater in 2014 than the previous year, helped by the fact that Volkswagen, Audi and Mitsubishi had recently joined BMW, Nissan, Renault and Toyota as sellers of these vehicles. But there remained much room for improvement, with 2014 sales amounting to a still modest 14,500 units - compared to 3500 in 2013.

Hawes noted a fall-off in demand for diesels, following recent media "demonisation" based on concerns that many diesel cars would not reach standards required for the London low CO2 zone proposed for 2020. Such criticism was wrong, he pointed out.

Contrary to some comments, diesels that reached the latest Euro 6 standard would indeed be accepted in London. The SMMT was "broadly supportive" of the London plan, but believed that, if anything, it should go further. Although only Euro 6-compliant diesels would avoid proposed new charges, Euro 4-compliant petrol-engined cars would also get through. "Under that system, you're missing out on 14 years of CO2 reduction in petrol cars," Hawes pointed out.

Car sales in 2015 would continue to rise, Hawes predicted, but less rapidly than in recent years, reflecting market caution about the looming general election and the recent fall-off in Russian business, where until recently the UK had been selling about nine per cent of its exported cars. Even so, the SMMT was expecting growth of "one or two per cent, perhaps as much as three", helped by the fact that around 120 new models would be launched during the year.

UK's best selling new cars in December 2014

Vauxhall Corsa 8074 units registered

Ford Fiesta 7507

Ford Focus 6196

Mini 5375

Vauxhall Astra 4936

Vauxhall Mokka 4099

Volkswagen Golf 4093

BMW 3-series 3361

Volkswagen Polo 3189

Nissan Juke 3048

UK's best-selling new cars in 2014

Ford Fiesta 131,254 units registered

Ford Focus 85,140

Vauxhall Corsa 81,783

Volkswagen Golf 73,880

Vauxhall Astra 59,689

Nissan Qashqai 49,909

Volkswagen Polo 48,004

Audi A3 45,581

Fiat 500 44,005

Nissan Juke 39,263

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Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

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Comments
8

7 January 2015
Fiesta, fantastic seller for Ford that's now in it's eighth calendar year with no real sign that Ford have a new version in the pipeline. Perhaps it just needs another face lift (especially inside) and then go on for another 3 years!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

7 January 2015
- which is all well and good, but it's actually quite frightening to think of another 2.5 million cars occupying our already congested roads. I'd like to think that 2.5 million cars were scrapped over the same period, but suspect this isn't so.
I can't help feeling that the industry would be more healthy if it concentrated on profitability, rather than churning out big numbers, then again the two are probably closely interrelated.

7 January 2015
I don't suppose Mr Hawes' view that the London low CO2 plan should go further has anything to do with people then being pushed to swap their petrol cars for new models?

7 January 2015
Interesting to see the figure for electric cars and plug ins separated out instead of being combined with normal hybrids. But at 1400 units for the year they account for just 0.06% of the total market which is just a drop in the ocean. It's not hard to see why even tiny improvements in efficiency / cleanliness of normal petrol and diesel engined models will have a much bigger benefit than the few electric cars, which are almost certainly used as second or third cars in most households.

7 January 2015
Unfortunately / fortunately, fuel prices have dropped so much that the public don't see the need for hybrids at present. The American market for heavy pickups tanked when the recession hit but now they're back up to the levels they were at before. Should prices go up again things will change.

7 January 2015
Good to see "Sales of 'plug-in vehicles', which the SMMT defines as pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, were four times greater in 2014 than the previous year"

And see sales of diesel suffering.

For 2 car families it's easy to see why an electric car would be used as First choice at 2p a mile.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

7 January 2015
Vauxhall Corsa tops the December car sales! Good to see the Mini make a strong come-back. I do see an awful lot of Vauxhall Mokkas on road. Proves our undying craving for the SUVs.

8 January 2015
"Sales of 'plug-in vehicles', which the SMMT defines as pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, were four times greater in 2014 than the previous year, helped by the fact that Volkswagen, Audi and Mitsubishi had recently joined BMW, Nissan, Renault and Toyota as sellers of these vehicles." - Apparently the Mitsubishi outlander PHEV alone took half of the government £5000 grants, making all the others mentioned relative minor players. Although the media are more interested in speedy BMW executive toys and such its the Mitsubishi that is truly significant.

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