‘UK vehicle boom drives new car sales to 12-year high’

London, Feb 6 (IANS) The number of new cars registered in Britain hit a 12-year high in January, an industry body said on Monday.

Although the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) had warned of a slowdown in trade in 2017 due to a weak pound, but there was no sign of deceleration in the year’s first month’s numbers, the Guardian reported.

Drivers registered 174,564 cars in January, up 2.9 per cent on 2016, to reach the highest monthly level since 2005, with electric vehicles taking a record market share.

Alternative fuel vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, increased by a fifth to reach a record 4.2 per cent share of new vehicle registrations, beating a previous high of 3.6 in November 2016.

Petrol cars sales were also up strongly, gaining 8.9 per cent, while diesel car registrations went down by 4.3, continuing the fall seen in December, amid suggestions of higher taxes to curb emissions.

The SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said he expected some “cooling” in the car market as the year progressed.

However, he adopted a more upbeat tone than at the end of 2016, when he warned of a “challenging” 2017, with the weakness of the pound likely to increase the cost of imported parts, pushing up car prices.

He said January’s numbers were “buoyed by a great range of new models which are safer and cleaner than ever before”.

He added: “It’s encouraging to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefiting from this positive growth, reaching a record market share.

“After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges.”

The Ford Fiesta remains the UK’s most popular car, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.