Car sales hit 12-year high in February

Qashqai Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Nissan Qashqai, which is made in Sunderland, was one of the top selling cars last month

Almost 84,000 new cars were sold in February in the UK - the highest level for the month since 2004.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said sales were up 8.4% compared with February last year.

Sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles jumped 19.9% year-on-year, with diesels up 5.6%.

Fleet sales fell 1.4% but still accounted for 53.1% of new vehicle sales in the month.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "February is typically one of the quietest months of the year ahead of March's plate change, but this positive performance is encouraging and puts the sector in a good position for the coming 12 months."

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said only 4% of cars typically were registered in February, so "small movements in the absolute number of registrations have a big impact on the headline growth number".

"High consumer confidence, lower petrol prices and cheaper unsecured credit have enhanced the attractiveness of car ownership, but these drivers will be less supportive of sales growth in 2016," he added.

"Growth in car sales therefore looks likely to moderate, contributing to a slowdown in the overall consumer spending recovery this year."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The VW Golf was the second-best selling model in February

A record 2.63 million new vehicles were registered last year - about 6% higher than in 2014 and the fourth consecutive year of growth, according to the SMMT.

The top selling models in February were the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai.

VW sales were down 13% compared with February 2015, although Toyota recorded a 16% drop and Vauxhall a 17% slide.

Ford sales were 12% higher compared with February 2015 at 11,513 vehicles,

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