New UK car sales hit a 10-year high in 2014, boosted by confidence in the economic recovery, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said.
In total, 2.47 million new cars were registered last year, up 9% on 2013 and the best annual performance since 2004.
Sales rose each month last year, with December’s rise representing the 34th consecutive monthly jump.
The SMMT said the strong performance reflected the release of pent-up demand from the recession years.
Car sales were badly hit by the economic downturn which started in 2008, with new registrations dipping below two million in both 2009 and 2011.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the robust performance meant UK new car registrations were now back at pre-recession levels, with only the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 seeing more registrations than last year.
“We expect a more stable 2015 as demand levels off,” he added.
The numbers mean the UK retained its ranking as the second largest market in the EU for new car sales, after Germany.
Sales of electric cars saw the biggest growth last year, with sales quadrupling to 14,498 from 3,586 in 2013.
Mr Hawes said with a variety of new plug-in models due in 2015, he expected this area to continue to “grow significantly”.
The SMMT data showed that the Ford Fiesta remained the UK’s top selling car, followed by the Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Corsa.
Separate data from The Finance & Leasing Association suggested that the majority of new cars were bought by people using credit.
The UK trade body for the asset, consumer and motor finance sectors said in December that the percentage of private new car sales bought by consumers on finance provided through dealerships hit a new record high of 75.9% in the twelve months to October.
Best selling cars for 2014
1. Ford Fiesta: 131,254
2. Ford Focus: 85,140
3. Vauxhall Corsa: 81,783
4. Volkswagen Golf: 73,880
5. Vauxhall Astra: 59,689
6. Nissan Qashqai: 49,909
7. Volkswagen Polo: 48,004
8. Audi A3: 45,581
9. Fiat 500: 44,005
10. Nissan Juke: 39,263