New car registrations have reached their highest levels in ten years as nearly 2.5m new cars hit the roads in 2014.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show registrations were up 9% on 2013 and the highest since 2004.
UK growth was ahead of the EU average of 5.7% and second only to Germany, as European consumers demanded smaller and more economical cars.
The UK remained the second largest market in the EU, behind Germany and ahead of France, Italy and Spain.
Registrations of ultra low emission cars also increased four-fold to 14,498 during the year as the SMMT suggested growing consumer awareness had driven the upward trend.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “UK new car registrations returned to pre-recession levels in 2014, as pent-up demand from the recession years combined with confidence in the economy saw consumer demand for the latest models grow consistently and strongly.
“The year was particularly strong for alternatively-fuelled vehicles as increased choice, coupled with a growing desire for reduced costs and greater efficiency, resulted in a quadrupling of plug-in car registrations over 2013.
“With a variety of new plug-in models expected in 2015, this area of the market will continue to grow significantly. For the market as a whole, we expect a more stable 2015 as demand levels off.”
David Raistrick, UK automotive leader at Deloitte, said it would be interesting to see if the falling price of petrol and diesel would influence the market for alternative fuel vehicles.
He added: “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.