A 5.3 per cent rise in registrations pushed the figure up to 2,044,609 by the end of December – up from 1,941,253 in 2011, and the highest annual numbers since 2008.
The rise comes as a surprise to the industry, with sales taking an unexpected surge during the middle of the year. NFDA and Deloitte analysis, carried out in January 2012, predicted that the figure for the end of the year would be around 1.84 million registrations – expecting a drop from 2011.
Private registrations are once again leading the figures: Up 12.5 per cent against 2011. The SMMT puts this down to retailers and manufacturers keeping on the ball – suggesting that ‘regular replacement cycles, offers and incentives’ might have contributed to the upturn.
Things aren’t so rosy for the fleet market, though – staying flat with a 0.3 per cent drop in December and a 0.6 per cent rise for 2012 overall. Business registrations dropped even further – down 16.5 per cent in December, and 9.5 per cent for 2012 overall.
December its self proved to be a fruitful end to the year, though – with a 3.7 per cent rise over the same month in 2011.
The ‘Mini’ and ‘Supermini’ segments proved to be particularly popular across the year: The former up 54.2 per cent, and the latter 5.4 per cent. Diesels increased their lead even further, too – now with a 50.8 per cent share of the market against 50.6 last year.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt was pleased by the figures – anticipating that the rise may continue into 2013.
‘Boosted by strong consumer demand, the market grew at its fastest rate for 11 years with innovative, fuel-efficient cars keeping buyers in showrooms,’ he said.
‘Looking ahead to 2013, we anticipate the market will hold firm, with manufacturers and dealers working hard to deliver quality and value to motorists.’
Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, suggested that while 2012 was positive, dealers should still be cautious going into 2013.
‘As we look to the year ahead the real question is whether this demand will hold. Consumer pockets will continue to be squeezed, and with pre-registration figures increasingly accounting for a larger percentage of the market, both manufacturers and dealers will have to be careful that supply does not outstrip demand.’