Up-for-sale Land Rover is expected to announce today that it has achieved annual sales of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time in its 60-year history.
The Solihull 4x4 specialist, which along with Jaguar is set to be snapped up by Indian conglomerate Tata in the next few weeks, has enjoyed its best ever annual sales performance thanks to demand for its new entry-level Freelander and upmarket Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models.
Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders yesterday showed that Land Rover's sales in the UK rose by nine per cent to 46,552 in 2007 and by 1.8 per cent to 2,337 in December.
But adding in sales of commercial variants, which are collected separately by the SMMT, brings the total for '07 to 50,664 vehicles, an increase of seven per cent, or 3,248 units over 2006.
The figures mean that the UK was the company's biggest market last year after being overtaken by the US in 2006.
Land Rover said Freelander 2, the cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicle it has ever built, got off to an impressive start following its launch into world markets earlier last year.
Sales of the "baby" offroader, which is built at Ford's Halewood plant on Merseyside, reached just under 19,000 - an increase of more than 34 per cent over the previous year.
The addition of turbo diesel V8 engines to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which give 32 per cent better fuel efficiency than the petrol equivalents with the same performance, had helped keep the brand "at the forefront of the luxury SUV segment", the company said.
UK managing director John Edwards said last night: "To crack the fifty thousand barrier and set a new UK record is a great achievement and to do it with the help of our most efficient cars to date is an added bonus.
"Last year the US beat us as our topselling market but the UK is where it all started 60 years ago and it's great to see the home market in the lead again."
In stark contrast, Jaguar, Land Rover's loss-making sister company in Ford's soon to be disbanded Premier Automotive Group of luxury European brands, ended last year 19 per cent adrift with sales of 18,749 cars, a loss of 4,416 units.
The company, regarded as marking time until the arrival in world markets of its new Birmingham-built XF medium saloon, only just broke the 1,000 sales mark last month as sales slipped by a further 24 per cent.
The figures, though, are distorted by the run-out of S-Type, the model that the XF will replace in March.
More than 3,000 advance orders have so far been received for the new car in the UK alone.
The industry consensus is that Jaguar is clawing its way back to profit thanks to the fact that it is offsetting loss of volume with sales of high specification, high margin models.
Industry-wide, new car sales last year exceeded industry expectations by finishing 2.5 per cent up on the 2006 total.
New registrations in 2007 reached 2,404,007, with diesel-powered vehicles taking a record 40.2 per cent share of the market, the SMMT said.
The average carbon dioxide emission level per vehicle fell last year by 1.4 per cent and has declined by 13.1 per cent since 1997, the society added.
Paul Everitt, who took over as SMMT chief executive on January 1, said: "Last year, demand for new cars was stronger than many had predicted. There is little sign that the US credit crisis or rising fuel prices have affected demand and we fore-see only limited changes through 2008.
"The UK economy currently remains resilient and the new car market is ultra-competitive. Car makers will continue to fight hard for every sale and consumers will benefit from unprecedented choice and excellent deals."
The 2007 new car total is the sixth-highest annual figure reached. The record year was 2003 when there were 2.58 million registrations. The SMMT estimates 2.34 million new cars will be registered in 2008.
Last year was another record for Mini, built by BMW at Oxford, with UK sales 25 per cent up at 47,661. BMW itself ended the year five per cent ahead with sales of 121,575.
Toyota, which has a base at Burnaston in Derbyshire, saw its annual sales edge ahead by just 0.57 per cent to 118,493.