The 189,101 cars sold in November 2016 meant that total new cars registered in the UK broke 2.5m before December for the first time, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said.

November’s total was a 2.9% increase compared to the same month last year.

These figures were both largely driven by an increase in the fleet market, which grew 5.1% year-on-year in November, and was up 5.3% for the 11 months to the end of that month.

In contrast, the private sector remained static year-to-date (up 0.1%), and actually shrunk slightly (-1.2%) in November. This marked the eighth straight month of falling private sales. 

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) continued their impressive growth in November, with a year-on-year jump of 25.1% to 6,663. This represented 3.6% of the market.

Petrol sales grew by 7.9% over the same period, to 88,541, however diesel sales slipped 2.9% to 88,897.

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While Ford and Vauxhall remained the top two manufacturers, Vauxhall sales fell 23.72%. As a result, the manufacturer only sold 646 more than BMW.

It was a good month all round for BMW, as the German manufacturer increased its sales 28.2% to 15,330, overtaking compatriot Volkswagen (which sold 14,351 vehicles), and near to Vauxhall’s 15,976.

Rounding out the top five, Audi sold 12,915, 16.5% more than November 2015.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “Our industry continues to make vehicles that are ever safer, more refined, more efficient and more enjoyable to drive – and the latest advanced technology and cutting-edge designs are continuing to attract buyers into showrooms. It's encouraging to see that alternatively fuelled vehicles, although still a small proportion of the market, have seen strong growth this month achieving a record market share. Long-term government support and incentives are essential if these vehicles are to command a larger market share in the future.”

Chris Bostworth, director of strategy at Close Brothers Motor Finance, suggested it would be innovations in the vehicles rather than finance which will be the main drivers for private registration growth in 2017.

He said: “For the eighth month in a row we have seen a fall in private sales. This has been offset by continued and strong demand for business and fleet markets, which have shown significant year-on-year growth for November. As has been the prevailing trend for the last 12 months, consumers are flocking to the used-car sector, preferring financing and purchasing 1-3 year ‘nearly new stock’ over brand new vehicles. This growth in used-car transactions contrasts directly to the activity in the new private-sales market over the last year, causing the overall growth trajectory of new car registrations to steadily decline.

“With the business market likely to be impacted by the changes to salary sacrifice from April 2017 announced in the Autumn Statement, the private sales market will become increasingly important to overall registrations in the UK. Looking forward, it’s likely that new innovations – such as safety improvements, alternative fuels and models – released by manufacturers will be the main drivers in encouraging new cars purchases over used vehicles in 2017.”