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Car registrations at an all-time high in 2016

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Every month the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) releases its car registration statistics, and every quarter we blog about them. They’re significant numbers for anyone in or around the world of motoring.

But the latest numbers, for December, are even more significant than usual. They complete the set for 2016, meaning that we can now identify trends for the whole year. Here’s what we at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions have observed:


A grand total of 2,692,786 new cars were registered in 2016 – and it really is a grand total. As the above graph shows, it’s some 2.3% higher than the 2,633,503 recorded in 2015, and is, in fact, the highest total ever reached in a calendar year. Coming, as it has, in a year of political and economic uncertainty, this growth is a wonderful testament to the resilience of Britain’s car market. 


Our graph also breaks down the registrations according to their fuel type, and there has been growth all across the board. 0.7% more diesel cars were registered in 2016 than in 2015, along with 2.6% more petrol cars, but it’s the AFVs that really stand out. Their number has risen by 22.2% over the past year, a rate of growth that has seen their overall market share swell from 2.8% to 3.3%. The red area of the graph may still be relatively small, but it’s bulking up quickly.

Here’s another version of our graph, which breaks down the car registrations by their buyers instead of by their fuel types. Here, you’ll notice, it is the fleet sector that’s dominating. A record 1,379,543 cars were registered into fleets in 2016, compared to 1,206,665 that were bought by private individuals. Fleets now account for 51.3% of the market, which is their highest share for almost five years.


So far, we’ve concentrated on 2016 in total, but it’s worth noting that the number of registrations in December was actually 1.1% lower than in the same month of 2015. This slight decline isn’t much by itself, although it does help to illustrate the SMMT’s warning that ‘2017 may well be more challenging as sterling depreciation raises the price of imported goods’. Still, as the numbers and graphs in this post demonstrate, the car market has put itself in a strong position for the coming year – an all-time high isn’t a bad place to start off from.

(Read more about the rise of van registrations in 2016 in our next blog post).

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