Acea figures show that the UK has cemented its position as Europe’s second largest new car market, behind Germany. UK buyers registered 292,731 more cars than the Italians and 418,558 more than the French last year.

New car registrations in the UK reached 2,563,631 units, up 4.3%. The German new car market saw a drop of 2.6% to 3,253,402 units in 2002. Of the other major European markets, Italy was down 5.9% to 2,270,900 units, France fell 4.9% to 2,145,073 and Spain dropped 6.6% to 1,331,878 units.

UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: “We were the only country of the major five markets to see an improvement last year, adding more than 100,000 units to the market.”