LONDON: Car sales in the UK reached their highest level for six years during 2013, helped in part by manufacturers' efforts to widen their marketing efforts to reach women and younger drivers.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that 2.26m cars were sold last year, a 10.8% rise on 2012 and the greatest number since the financial crisis hit in 2007. The UK has now seen 22 consecutive months of growth in car sales, culminating in a 23.8% rise to 152,918 units in December.

"Car brands have moved away from just targeting at a small sector of the buying public," an SMMT spokesman told Marketing Week. "They are using branding to appeal to a different and wider audience," he added.

Other factors playing a role in the revival included growing consumer confidence and cheap finance deals. In addition, Mike Hawes, SMMT CEO, told the Guardian that compensation payments, averaging £3,000, to people mis-sold payment protection insurance by financial institutions were enough for a deposit on a new car.

The impact was clear as the strongest growth during the past year came in private car sales which increased 19.8%.

The SMMT also noted a shift towards smaller, more fuel efficient models. Supermini vehicles accounted for 35.9% of sales, while sales of hybrid and plug-in cars were up 20.5% to a total of 32,715 units.

Growth in 2014 is expected to slow to around 1% however, as the effects of the rebound from recession fade.

Ford was the top selling brand with its Fiesta and Focus taking the top two spots, followed by Vauxhall with its Corsa and Astra models in third and fourth, then the Volkswagen Golf in fifth.

Spain was the only other major European market to record an increase in car sales in 2013, up 2.1% thanks to a scrappage scheme.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff