Sales of new cars fell by almost 4.5% in 2011, according to official figures.
The data, put out by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), show the extent to which the industry suffered during last year. Sales fell from 2.03 million in December 2010 to 1.94 million in December 2011.
However, a large part of the gap between 2010 sales figures and the most recent results is likely to be down to the boost in sales provided by the Government's 2010 car scrappage scheme, which saw discounted prices on new cars if old ones were traded in.
Chief executive of the SMMT, Paul Everitt, said: "2011 was a challenging year for the UK motor industry and weak economic growth will make conditions tough in 2012, but record numbers of new and updated models with better fuel efficiency and exciting new technology will help.
"Business and consumer confidence will be the key to a successful year, so it will be important that the government delivers on its growth strategy."
© Press Association 2012