The UK new car market reached its highest level in September on record, as buyers purchased the new 66-plate.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported 469,696 cars were registered, up 1.6% on the same month last year.

The total number of cars registered so far this year reached 2,150,495 units, up 2.6% compared with the same period last year. It is only the second time that the two million mark has been passed in September since 2004.

Fleet registrations continued to drive growth, up 7.3%, while registrations to private motorists experienced a decline, down -1.7% to 223,844 units in the month. Diesel registrations rose 2.8% as petrol declined -1.1%. Alternatively fuelled vehicles continued to outpace the market, up 32.6% against the same month last year with a market share of 3.4%.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “September is always one of the biggest months for Britain’s new car market. The new 66-plate, combined with a diverse range of exciting new models featuring the latest technology, has certainly helped draw buyers into showrooms and many are taking full advantage of the attractive deals and low interest financing options on offer.

“Business and consumers place September orders many months in advance, so the ability of the market to maintain this record level of demand will depend on the ability of government to overcome political uncertainty and safeguard the conditions that underpin consumer appetite.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers across the UK, said: “While dealers’ expectations appeared to be split at the beginning of the month, more recent comments from members were fairly optimistic, in line with today’s figures.

“With near record numbers of new vehicles on the road aftersales, undertaken by the franchised dealers, will drive growth in the sector.

“The plate change has certainly helped boost consumers’ confidence and we should not be surprised to see some signs of stabilisation in the next months. The majority of dealers expect sales for the last quarter to be similar to last year’s record performance.”