Motor manufacturers saw new car sales dip last year to their lowest annual level since 1996, with the industry now facing "unprecedented challenges", it has been announced.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that total new registrations in 2008 reached 2,131,795 - 11.3% down on the figure for the previous year.
And had the December 2008 new-car total of 108,691 been as bad as feared, the figure could have been even worse, it said.
However, annual sales, which were as high as 2.4 million in 2007, are expected to slip to around 1.78 million in 2009 - the lowest total since 1992.
Paul Everitt, the SMMT's chief executive, said further Government action was needed to help the motor industry, while franchised dealers also called for action so that consumer confidence could be boosted.
The trend of declining sales affected most manufacturers, but the Smart car company - which produces low-emission, "green" vehicles - was able to report a 43.3% rise in purchases in 2008. Jaguar and Kia also sold more cars last year than in 2007.
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