Ford products topped the UK sales chart (as they almost always do) in January

Ford products topped the UK sales chart (as they almost always do) in January

The UK car market is off to a string start in January with year-on-year sales up 6.7% on last year.

The SMMT said that the market of 164,856 units was the strongest January since 2007 and January marked the 35th consecutive month of rises.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, "These figures mark an encouraging start to the year after a very strong 2014, with a strikingly robust company car market as businesses take advantage of the attractive finance offers currently available.

"January saw increased uptake of both petrol and diesel cars, while demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles continued its surge with registrations rising by 60.8%. Registrations of plug-in vehicles were particularly strong as consumers responded to a greater choice of makes and models delivering lower running costs.

"Last year's 9.3% rise in the overall market was fuelled by stronger than expected economic confidence and, for 2015, we expect to see some levelling off throughout the year: demand is back to pre-recession levels following record-breaking growth."

Growth in company car registrations was particularly strong in the month, up 18.1% on January 2014.

IHS noted that Ford stood at the top of the brand charts this month with registrations of 21,480 units, as the B segment Fiesta was the biggest selling model with 8,674 units followed by its C segment Focus in third with 4,824 units. However, registrations have slid by 1.4% y/y. General Motors' (GM's) Vauxhall brand had a more positive month with registrations increasing by 13.7% y/y to 16,935 units, as the recently revamped B segment Corsa took second place in the model chart with 6,879 units, while the Astra languished in 10th place with sales of 2,996 units. The third-place Volkswagen (VW) brand was another weak performer this month, with registrations declining by 3.1% y/y to 13,993 units, as its C segment Golf and B segment Polo took fifth and eighth place in the model chart, respectively.

David Raistrick, UK Automotive Leader at Deloitte said that a plateau is in prospect for the UK car market in 2015 and that expectations need to be adjusted accordingly.

"At the beginning of 2014, it was clear that we were going to see healthy levels of growth in new vehicle registrations, although the final numbers of almost 2.5m have surpassed everyone's expectations, especially given the difficulties experienced in the mainstream European markets.

"There is naturally going to come a time when the UK new car market's record run of comparative monthly growth will come to an end. However, when this point comes, and our analysis suggests it will be 2015 with a plateau having now been reached, it is important that the market reaction is measured. A levelling off in new registrations should be balanced against the reality that as recently as only three years ago, new cars sales were less than 1.95 million, and the European market has been in free fall over this period. Equally, there is a finite limit to the numbers of new cars required every year, no matter how buoyant the markets may be. Current levels are hugely positive, and flat sales this coming year, or even a slight reduction, should still be seen as a positive position, and not a tale of woe."