Jan. 7 - British new car sales grew by more than 10 percent last year to hit a five-year high, bucking a gloomy trend in most of the rest of Europe. As Sonia Legg reports it was yet another sign that the UK's economic recovery is picking up speed.
The UK has moved into the fast lane with a 10.8% rise in UK car sales in 2013. 2.26 million vehicles were registered - the highest number for six years. Sales have increased consistently for almost two years now and they were up almost a quarter in December. The UK even overtook France to become Europe's second biggest car market after Germany. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said sales were helped by stronger consumer confidence and cheap credit. The figures weren't the only cause for optimism in Britain. Businesses also reported strong growth and rising confidence, suggesting - says Credit Suisse's Robert Parker - the country's economic recovery will pick up speed. (SOUNDBITE) (English): ROBERT PARKER, SENIOR ADVISER, CREDIT SUISSE, SAYING: "Growth in 2014 should be above 2.5% - it may be as high as 2.8%. What is really quite positive about the UK is that now growth is more broadly based so yes we have a consumer recovery as evidence by the sales of cars but investment spending is starting to pick up and exports are benefiting from the euro zone coming out of recession, emerging market growth, at least in Asia, being maintained and also obviously with the recovery in the US economy," The UK car figures contrast sharply with the rest of Europe. Sales there were down 2.8% over the 11 months to November, putting them on track for a sixth straight annual decline Ford continues to be the UK's top-selling brand followed by General Motors' Vauxhall Corsa and Astra models. And one in seven of the new cars were also made in the UK.