UK new car registrations were at their highest level ever in 2015, topping 2.6 million units for the first time, and completing four years of consecutive growth.

The market has posted increases in all but one of the past 46 months and recorded its best ever December in 2015, with new car registrations up 8.4% to 180,077.

Overall, the market rose 6.3% in 2015 to 2,633,503 units, outperforming the record year in 2003 when 2,579,050 new cars were registered.

All sectors experienced growth, with UK fleets boosting demand by 11.8% to reach an all-time high of 1.3 million units. The private sector was up 2.5%.

Gains were reported across all fuel types, with petrol and diesel registrations up 8.4% and 3% respectively with equal market shares. Alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) demand grew 40.3%, securing market share of 2.8% for the year. Volumes for plug-in hybrids more than doubled and pure electric vehicles saw an uplift of around 50%.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “The new car market defied expectations in 2015, hitting an all-time record driven by strong consumer and business confidence. Buyers took advantage of attractive finance deals and low inflation to secure some of the most innovative, high-tech and fuel efficient vehicles ever produced. The past four years have seen a remarkable period of sustained growth, and the outlook remains positive with every reason to expect the market to hold broadly steady in 2016.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: “Strong new car sales will have a lasting positive impact on the UK economy as all the new cars of today need to be serviced in the years ahead.

“The NFDA expect the market this year to continue to perform well and to build on the success of 2015.”