LONDON - The UK had its third best year ever in 1997. Sales rose 7.2 percent to 2,170,725.
Ford had the three best-selling cars, the Fiesta (119,471), Escort (113,522) and Mondeo (107,239).
General Motors' Vauxhall Vectra, Astra and Corsa followed.
Ford remained the best-selling brand, although its sales fell slightly and its market share slipped to 18.3 percent from 19.6 percent in 1996. Vauxhall, the No. 2 brand, also lost share. Rover's sales fell by 2 percent.
Import share rose to 66.2 percent from 62 percent in 1996. Renault did well. Sales jumped by 20.3 percent to 159,235 units.
For the first time, private buyers accounted for more than one million sales. The remainder were to fleets of 25 or more vehicles, and to small companies.
Ford led in fleet sales, with 222,619 registrations.
Ernie Thompson, chief executive of SMMT,, the UK manufacturers' association, said the outlook for 1998 'is cautiously optimistic.'