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Fleet registrations continue to drive new car market growth

The UK new car market saw a modest rise in October, supported by continued growth in the fleet sector and for alternatively fuelled vehicles.

New cars in a line

SMMT data shows YtD registrations are up by 2.5% with 2,330,663 vehicles hitting the road

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 180,168 new cars were registered in October – up 1.4%. Fleet registrations rose 4.2% to 96,440 units, giving the sector a 53.5% market share compared to 52.1% a year ago. In contrast, the sub-25 ‘Business’ sector declined 7.8% to 5,907 units while private registrations fell 1.1% to 77,821 units.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles continued to grow in popularity, rising 12.4% in October and 23.3% in the year so far to 75,987 registrations – the highest ever level achieved in the first 10 months of the year.

Year-to-date, the new car market is up 2.5%, with 2,330,663 new cars registered. Fleet registrations for the first 10 months of the year rose 5.3% to 1,179,158 units while business registrations dropped 5.9% to 90,561. Private registrations saw slight growth of 0.3% to 1,060,944 units.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, commented: “September’s number plate change is always a hard act to follow so the market’s growth in October, albeit moderate, is welcome news. Low interest rates, affordable finance packages and a range of exciting new models helped attract buyers into showrooms and we now look to government to ensure consumer and business confidence remains buoyant.”

John Leech, head of automotive at KPMG UK, added: “For the past six months we have seen a similar pattern of small declines in consumer sales, offset by steady growth in fleet sales. With prices set to increase by small incremental amounts over the next year, it is tempting to wonder if the consumer market might decline further. However, our analysis of Personal Car Plan returns gives confidence that this is unlikely as very few car buyers are facing negative equity in their car loans at present.

“Therefore we maintain our forecast of another all-time record year of car sales at 2.7 million in 2016 falling back a little in 2017.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 14 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie works across the magazine portfolio and updates the company websites with daily news, interviews and road test content.