Almost 2.5 million new cars were registered in the UK in 2014 _ the highest figure in a calendar year since 2004.æ Fleet and business registrations accounted for a substantial part of the market at 52 per cent.æ This equated to 1,296,936 units, an 8.9 per cent increase on the 1.2 million cars registered during 2013. SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said: "UK new car registrations returned to pre-recession levels in 2014, as pent-up demand from the recession years combined with confidence in the economy saw consumer demand for the latest models grow consistently and strongly.î Even more impressively, 2014 was the fourth strongest performing year in history, with only 2002, 2003 and 2004 seeing more cars registered.æ As a result of this positive performance, the UK remains the second largest market in the European Union, behind only Germany. Every month in 2014 saw an increase, with December's 8.7 per centrise the 34th consecutive month of genuine growth.æ Interestingly, there was also a substantial increase in the plug-in car market, where volumes quadrupled from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,498 in 2014. Mr Hawes continued: "The year was particularly strong for alternatively-fuelled vehicles as increased choice, coupled with a growing desire for reduced costs and greater efficiency, resulted in a quadrupling of plug-in car registrations over 2013. 'With a variety of new plug-in models expected in 2015, this area of the market will continue to grow significantly. For the market as a whole, we expect a more stable 2015 as demand levels off." With fleets seeking lower running costs, the demand for more efficient cars has increased, and the BVRLA has expected to see average CO2 emissions for lease fleets decrease below 120g/km of CO2 for the first time during the upcoming year. BVRLA Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney, said: '2014 was a great year for the retail and fleet motor industry. New fleet registrations hit a seven-year high, up nearly nine percent on 2013, and we saw consistent growth in the fleet leasing sector, with volumes up around 6%. 'We expect to see a further, steady increase in new leasing volumes this year. Demand for vehicle finance continues to grow _ particularly from consumers, SMEs and salary sacrifice customers.î