• UK new car registrations rose 5.3% in 2012 to 2,044,609 units, boosted by strong consumer demand;
  • Annual volume was highest since 2008, and recorded largest percentage increase since 2001;
  • Growth in 2012 followed 12.9% rise in private demand;
  • New car market was still 14.9% below 2007, pre-recession, level of 2.4m units;
  • Average new car CO2 emissions fell to new low of 133.1g/km, 22.7% down on a decade ago;
  • Market ended 2012 with 3.7% rise in December to 123,557 units. 

The UK new car market rose 5.3% in 2012 to over 2m units, the best result since recession struck in 2008. The positive result contrasts with declines in other major European national car markets.

“More than two million new cars were registered in the UK during 2012, up 5.3% on the previous 12 months and the best result since recession struck in 2008,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive. “Boosted by strong consumer demand, the market grew at its fastest rate for 11 years with innovative, fuel-efficient cars keeping buyers in showrooms. Looking ahead to 2013, we anticipate the market will hold firm, with manufacturers and dealers working hard to deliver quality and value to motorists.”

The gain in 2012 was centred on the private retail side of the car market, which was up 12.9% in the year. The SMMT said that “regular replacement cycles, offers and incentives and some buyers shifting from buying used to new cars could have contributed to the upturn”. Some industry analysts have also pointed to dealer 'pre-registrations' as a factor behind the growth of new registrations over the past year.

The SMMT admitted that the 2013 market is set to be 'challenging' and said it anticipates a performance on-par with 2012. 

David Raistrick, UK Manufacturing Leader at Deloitte, warned that market growth achieved during December was (at +3.7%, year-on-year) somewhat lower than the preceding months and may be an indication of more challenging times ahead. 

“With mixed messages coming from economic statistics – unemployment numbers falling whilst output data hovers around the borders of low growth/contraction, it is unlikely that the UK will see any major growth in new car sales during 2013,” he said “Indeed, following the best year for new car sales since 2007, there is a strong likelihood that 2013 will see a reduction in the numbers of new cars sold. Artificial stimuli, such as pre-registrations or self-registrations, are not possible on a sustained basis so we expect them to decrease during 2013.”

The 2012 outturn was 1.6% ahead of SMMT’s 2.013m unit forecast, as set in October 2012 and 6.5% above the forecast set at the start of 2012. Despite growing, the 2012 new car market was still 14.9% or some 360,000 units below the 2007 market outturn.

The Ford Fiesta was the best selling model of 2012, retaining the position held since 2009.

  DECEMBER % Change YEAR-TO-DATE % Change
MARQUE 2012 % Market share 2011 % Market share   2012 % Market share 2011 % Market share  
Abarth 120 0.1 78 0.07 53.85 1292 0.06 1291 0.07 0.08
Alfa Romeo 290 0.23 608 0.51 -52.3 7253 0.35 11563 0.6 -37.27
Aston Martin 64 0.05 53 0.04 20.75 932 0.05 1024 0.05 -8.98
Audi 4786 3.87 6310 5.29 -24.15 123622 6.05 113797 5.86 8.63
Bentley 83 0.07 51 0.04 62.75 1267 0.06 1037 0.05 22.18
BMW 10175 8.24 7535 6.32 35.04 127530 6.24 116642 6.01 9.33
Chevrolet 436 0.35 705 0.59 -38.16 13476 0.66 12524 0.65 7.6
Chrysler 135 0.11 109 0.09 23.85 3333 0.16 1182 0.06 181.98
Citroen 3935 3.18 4030 3.38 -2.36 73656 3.6 68464 3.53 7.58
Daihatsu 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 -100
Fiat 3260 2.64 2203 1.85 47.98 49907 2.44 41612 2.14 19.93
Ford 15656 12.67 14689 12.32 6.58 281917 13.79 265894 13.7 6.03
Honda 3331 2.7 2261 1.9 47.32 54208 2.65 50577 2.61 7.18
Hyundai 5551 4.49 5422 4.55 2.38 74285 3.63 62900 3.24 18.1
Infiniti 42 0.03 34 0.03 23.53 530 0.03 382 0.02 38.74
Jaguar 1054 0.85 813 0.68 29.64 14109 0.69 13787 0.71 2.34
Jeep 120 0.1 213 0.18 -43.66 2306 0.11 2146 0.11 7.46
Kia 3890 3.15 2509 2.11 55.04 66629 3.26 53615 2.76 24.27
Land Rover 2532 2.05 2747 2.3 -7.83 48626 2.38 37637 1.94 29.2
Lexus 390 0.32 683 0.57 -42.9 8404 0.41 8269 0.43 1.63
Lotus 14 0.01 10 0.01 40 137 0.01 329 0.02 -58.36
Maserati 14 0.01 18 0.02 -22.22 309 0.02 388 0.02 -20.36
Mazda 970 0.79 1635 1.37 -40.67 26183 1.28 31219 1.61 -16.13
Mercedes-Benz 5261 4.26 4815 4.04 9.26 91855 4.49 81873 4.22 12.19
MG 93 0.08 111 0.09 -16.22 782 0.04 360 0.02 117.22
MINI 4499 3.64 4278 3.59 5.17 51324 2.51 50138 2.58 2.37
Mitsubishi 735 0.59 469 0.39 56.72 6549 0.32 9843 0.51 -33.47
Nissan 6441 5.21 5789 4.86 11.26 105835 5.18 96269 4.96 9.94
Perodua 22 0.02 21 0.02 4.76 416 0.02 543 0.03 -23.39
Peugeot 4757 3.85 4643 3.9 2.46 99486 4.87 94989 4.89 4.73
Porsche 761 0.62 718 0.6 5.99 7998 0.39 6382 0.33 25.32
Proton 1 0 21 0.02 -95.24 208 0.01 446 0.02 -53.36
Renault 3733 3.02 4548 3.82 -17.92 40760 1.99 68449 3.53 -40.45
Saab 0 0 8 0.01 -100 232 0.01 4138 0.21 -94.39
SEAT 2799 2.27 2485 2.08 12.64 38798 1.9 36089 1.86 7.51
Skoda 3199 2.59 2878 2.41 11.15 53602 2.62 45061 2.32 18.95
smart 514 0.42 335 0.28 53.43 5616 0.27 5044 0.26 11.34
Ssangyong 65 0.05 51 0.04 27.45 875 0.04 194 0.01 351.03
Subaru 92 0.07 141 0.12 -34.75 2023 0.1 2634 0.14 -23.2
Suzuki 1564 1.27 1222 1.03 27.99 24893 1.22 20295 1.05 22.66
Toyota 4149 3.36 5495 4.61 -24.49 84563 4.14 73589 3.79 14.91
Vauxhall 16272 13.17 15782 13.24 3.1 232255 11.36 234710 12.09 -1.05
Volkswagen 9651 7.81 10549 8.85 -8.51 183098 8.96 179290 9.24 2.12
Volvo 2030 1.64 2001 1.68 1.45 31790 1.55 32657 1.68 -2.65
Other British 50 0.04 61 0.05 -18.03 926 0.05 1115 0.06 -16.95
Other Imports 21 0.02 51 0.04 -58.82 814 0.04 863 0.04 -5.68
Total 123557   119188   3.67 2044609   1941253   5.32