UK motorists bought a record number of new cars last year, the BBC reported on its website, citing official industry figures.

A total of 2.58 million new vehicles left dealer forecourts in 2003, according to the UK wide study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the BBC said.

The report noted that the new record was boosted by an end of year sales surge, with 155,000 new cars registered in December, a 7% increase on the same month in 2002.

Led by Ford, Vauxhall and Renault, eight foreign brands topped the sales chart, the BBC reported.

MG-Rover, the last remaining volume British car manufacturer, was in ninth place, with a market share of just 3.7% while highest placed Ford took 14.7% of the market the report added.