Image: Diego Delso Image: Diego Delso

A record number of new cars were sold in the first half of 2016, but there were signs of slowing in the second quarter, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Sales rose 3.2% in the first six months of the year to 1,420,636, more than any half-year period on record.

The SMMT said sales rose across all fuel types, with diesel and petrol registrations growing 2.3% and 3.0% respectively in the year-to-date. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs), meanwhile, continued the significant gains seen over previous months, up 21.3% compared with the first six months of 2015. AFVs now account for 3.2% of the overall new car market.

However, new car sales dropped by 0.8% in June compared with last year. But the SMMT said this was widely expected by the industry following a record June in 2015.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It is far too soon to determine whether the referendum result has had an impact on the new car market. The first six months saw strong demand at record levels but the market undoubtedly cooled over the second quarter. It’s important government takes every measure to restore business and economic confidence to avoid the market contracting in the coming months.”

Richard Jones, managing director at Black Horse, part of Lloyds Banking Group, said: “It is natural to see figures cooling after the incredible growth of recent years. We know that some key drivers of growth such as the increased penetration of PCP are already very high so cannot simply continue to grow at such a pace. However, despite potential increased challenges in H2, the approach of Black Horse will not change – we remain committed to keeping dealers central to the car buying journey.”