ENCOURAGING sales of new cars last month have kept alive hopes that 2004 will break the annual sales record set last year.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that 172,094 new cars were registered in November 2004 - 1.8% more than in November 2003.
Sales for the January- November 2004 period are now just 682 fewer than those in the first 11 months of 2003.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "November's new car market was the second-largest on record, boosting registrations towards a fourth consecutive record annual total.
"While the December market is difficult to predict, 156,135 new cars would see another record total. With Christmas coming, it remains to be seen if enough people have a new car on their gift list."
Registrations for new cars in the UK reached a high of 2,579,050 in 2003, up from 2,563,631 in 2002.
Diesel sales increased again last month, with their market share rising to 36.9%.
So far this year multi-purpose vehicles, sports cars and 4x4s have shown the best growth rates.
Once again the Ford Focus was the best-selling model last month with the Vauxhall Astra second.