New car sales accelerated ahead again last month - rising 26.4 per cent on the February 2009 total, it was announced today.
But although the February 2010 total of new registrations reached 68,686, this was 1.3 per cent below the February 2008 figure and 12.2 per cent below the average for the month of February from 1999 to 2009.
Announcing the figures today, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the Government's soon-to-end car scrappage scheme had accounted for 19.6 per cent of the February 2010 new car market.
Today's figures were boosted by the fact that this time last year the motor industry was suffering a downturn in demand and production.
It was the introduction of the scrappage scheme which eventually reversed a trend which had seen year-on-year sales fall for 15 successive months.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: "Scrappage has generated eight consecutive months of growth in the new car market and we expect its benefits to stretch beyond the scheme's closure later this month.
"Industry continues to face challenging market conditions, but positive trends in the fleet and business sectors suggest that negative impacts can be minimised. Strengthening business and consumer confidence remains industry's priority. A clear and consistent approach to CO2-based taxation and improved access to affordable credit are essential elements in sustaining recovery in the new car market."
The SMMT said it expected sales to rise in March 2010 but, with the scrappage scheme ending, new registrations are likely to decline in the second half of this year.
Total registrations for 2010 are expected to be about 10 per cent down at 1.82 million, the SMMT said.
Sales of new Toyota cars in the UK last month held up reasonably well despite the fact that the Japanese motor giant has had to recall around eight million vehicles worldwide due to a number of problems.
In the face of much adverse publicity, Toyota's share of the UK market was down only 4.91 per cent in February 2010. The company sold 3,439 cars last month compared with 2,981 in February 2009 when the overall market was smaller.
These were the top-selling models in February 2010:
1. Ford Fiesta
2. Ford Focus
3. Volkswagen Golf
4. Vauxhall Astra
5. Vauxhall Corsa
6. Hyundai i10
7. Volkswagen Polo
8. BMW 3 Series
9. Kia Picanto
10. Peugeot 207