New car registrations fell by 4.4% during 2011, but the underlying trend suggests the worst could be over.
While sales in 2011 fell by 89,593 cars compared with the previous year's totals, the second half of the year recorded an overall a decline of just 1.1%.
Earlier SMMT forecasts of market stabilisation in 2012 and a return to growth in 2013 have been downgraded because of concerns over instability in euro-zone countries.
Who's buying what?
Sales of diesel and alternatively fuelled cars claimed record shares of the market in 2011, with sales of diesel-powered cars exceeding those of petrol counterparts for the first time.
Fleet sales were also buoyant, but private transactions recorded a significant drop.
Rising running costs and environmental concerns have also resulted in average new car emissions tumbling to a new low of 138.1g/km – a decline of 4.2% on 2010's figure of 144.2g/km. This equates to a fall of 23.7% on the average CO2 figure of 181g/km at the turn of the century.
The Ford Fiesta was 2011's best seller, with the VW Golf taking the crown for the top-selling diesel. Confirming the trend towards cheaper, efficient cars, the supermini segment retained the largest market share with 36.3% of all sales.
The best-selling cars of December and 2011 overall
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