THE UK car industry has enjoyed its strongest sales since 2007 after being boosted by a North-East vehicle maker.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says 2.26 million new vehicles were registered in 2013, a rise of about 11 per cent from 2012.

Bosses say the industry has been galvanised by cheap credit deals and increasing consumer confidence.

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It means the UK is now Europe's second-largest car market behind Germany.

In a report, the SMMT says Nissan's Qashqai, built at the Japanese firm's Sunderland plant, attracted 2,516 sales in December, with 50,211 sold during 2013.

Nissan is about to start work on its next generation Qashqai, which features a number of refinements to the existing model, and is expected to go on sale at the end of the month.

Ford's Fiesta was the most popular on the list, with 121,929 models sold in the year, followed by the US firm's Focus, which had 87,350 sales, and Vauxhall's Corsa that sold 84,275 models.

It added registrations of hybrid and electric cars had also increased, rising by 17.5 per cent to 32,727 vehicles in 2013.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the UK car market was continuing to strengthen and move ahead of Europe.

He said: “With its best year since a pre-recession 2007, the UK new car market has helped stimulate the country’s economic recovery.

“While the European market is only now showing signs of improvement, the UK has consistently outperformed the rest of Europe with 22 consecutive months of growth.

"The 10.8 per cent increase in 2013 reflects the attractive financial offers available as well as increased demand for more technologically advanced new cars.

“We expect new car registrations to remain stable in 2014 as customers return to a more regular replacement cycle.”

The UK's best-selling cars in 2013:

Ford Fiesta: 121,929

Ford Focus: 87,350

Vauxhall Corsa: 84,275

Vauxhall Astra: 68,070

Volkswagen Golf: 64,951

Nissan Qashqai: 50,211