UK new car sales hit record high in 2016 but signs of slowdown ahead - SMMT

A Bentley Mulsanne Speed, a Bentley Flying Spur, and a Bentley GTC Speed (L-R) are lined up in the courtyard of a hotel in central London January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations hit a record 2.69 million units in 2016 despite concerns from some analysts that June’s Brexit vote would dent sales but demand will fall by around 5 percent this year, a car industry body said on Thursday.

Full-year sales rose 2.3 percent in 2016 but year-on-year registrations fell in December by 1.1 percent, only the third annual drop in nearly five years, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

Demand from individual consumers has fallen in every month since April with overall growth supported by strong rises in business demand.

However, in December fleet demand fell for the first time in nearly a year, suggesting that it will be difficult to match last year’s performance in 2017.

Reporting by Costas Pitas, editing by David Milliken