UK car sales hit highest levels since 2007 as brands broaden marketing efforts

Figures released today (7 January) show that new vehicle registrations in 2013 increased 10.8 per cent year on year to more than 2.26 million, ahead of the SSMT’s own estimates. December marked the 22nd consecutive month of growth, helping the UK to hit the highest level of new car sales since 2007, before the recession hit.

A spokesperson at SMMT told Marketing Week that car manufacturers are now marketing to different audiences, increasingly targeting younger drivers and females, which research shows have a big impact on the purchase process. This includes activity such as interacting with female buyers in forums online and on social media.

“Car brands have moved away from just targeting at a small sector of the buying public. They are using branding to appeal to a different and wider audience,” he adds.

Honda is one car brand that is shifting its marketing focus. It has previously dedicated 50 per cent of its marketing budget to tactical advertising that targets the 5 per cent of people that are actively looking to buy a car, but is now changing that by talking to consumers that have an opinion on the brand and influence the purchasing decision, but might not be the ones that buy the car.

The SMMT figures secure the UK’s position as Europe’s second largest car market after Germany and the only one to grow consistently throughout the year. Spain was the only other European car market to see growth last year, mainly due to government incentives, while Germany, Italy and France all declines.

A spokesperson says this is the latest sign of a rebound in the UK economy, with employment figures, house prices and GDP also on the rise. This has led to increased confidence, with consumers more willing to take out loans on items such as cars with the confidence they will be able to afford the monthly repayments.

“It all boils down to consumer confidence. This has improved a lot more in the UK than Europe. The UK is bucking the trend,” he says.

The SMMT says car sales were also up in 2013 as consumers bought into vehicles with better fuel efficiency, new car types such as the “supermini” and improving technology available in cars. The society expects sales to remain stable in 2014 as consumers return to a “more regular” replacement cycle.