Private car sales see first rise since March
Private sales of new cars rose last month for the first time since before the Brexit vote, helping dealerships record their best January for 12 years.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 76,729 new private car sales were recorded, up 5% on the same month in 2016.
It was the first increase since March last year and comes at a time when businesses are warning that price rises and uncertainty will take their toll on consumer spending, and see the car market slow this year.
While the new car market has been enjoying growth in recent months, this has been down to fleet car sales rather than private motorists' purchases, which have been falling.
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The January figures showed a total of 174.564 new car registrations in January, 2.9% up on last year and the highest January number since 2005.
Fleet sales rose 1.4% and business sales fell 1%.
Sales of "alternatively fuelled" vehicles - such as electric cars - grew by 19.9%, meaning they now represent one in every 25 new cars sold for the first time.
Diesel car sales continued to decline, down 4.3%, while petrol vehicles sold 8.9% more.
The SMMT has warned that 2017 will see a fall in sales overall compared to 2016.
It estimates prices will rise by up to 3% over coming months thanks to the fall in the pound after the Brexit vote.
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SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the latest figures showed 2017 had "got off to a good start".
He added: "After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges."
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