Despite 2016 being a tumultuous year for the UK, which voted to leave the European Union and saw a change of leadership, car registrations numbers hit an all time high of almost 2.7 million. The figure was released by the country’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and reported by Autocar.

Last year’s total registrations were 2.2% higher than the previous record of 2.6 million cars, set in 2015. Prior to that, the record stood at 2.58 million units, from 2003.

“Consumer confidence has remained strong despite a number of challenges for the industry, economy and politically, over the past year. That has combined with low interest rates and a raft of new model and new technology launches to deliver more choice of better vehicles than ever,” SMMT CEO Mark Hawes explained.

He however warned that the market would likely soften by around 5-6% this year as a result of uncertain trading conditions sparked by Brexit negotiations, volatile currency exchange rates, a possible interest rate rise and the impact of upcoming Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) changes. The latter will remove incentives to buy some low-emission cars and add taxes to cars costing over £40,000.

“Registrations of around 2.5m would still be extremely strong when put in context – we are not talking about a dramatic drop-off. The truth is there’s a latent demand built up from 2011 after several tough years during the recession, and we expect that to lose some of its momentum in the year ahead,” Hawes said.

According to sales data, sales growth was the strongest in supermini (B-segment) and SUV classes, as well as for the premium brands. What went down was traditional hatchbacks from mainstream brands (VW Golf and its kind) as sales went to SUVs. Figures show that while more diesel cars were registered last year than in 2015, the market share of oil burners fell. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles were up 22% year-on-year for a 3.31% market share.

Not being part of the EU would mean no more access to the single market, and SMMT has previously said that this could add around £1,500 to the price of the average car. “Obviously we hope it won’t happen, but it is an indication of what’s at stake to the car industry and I think the government understands that. Such a price rise would have a profound impact, were it to come about,” Hawes said.