Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'Last year's new car market was marked by two important facts; sales smashed the 2.5 million barrier for the first time and the UK cemented its position as the second largest new car market in Europe.'
December's market grew by 14.3% to a best-ever 144,576 units.
'New car buyers have increasingly focused on smaller cars and a new generation of greener diesel models, taking advantage of cheaper motoring costs as well as tax breaks for lower carbon dioxide emissions. We fully expect these trends to continue into 2003,' Macgowan said.
The SMMT believes 2003 new car registrations will dip to 2.38 million units. But it also predicted a fall in registrations in 2002 from the previous year.