Analysis of the figures reveals that 36% of the month's total - around 58,000 cars - were registered in the last six days of September. Mitsubishi claims that is 'a sure indication that pre-registration is still taking place on a large scale' and follows claims in some quarters that August sales were inflated by as much as 20% through the same mechanism.
'By the SMMT continuing to publish registration figures, which the media in turn translate as 'actual sales', it sends the wrong signals as to the real health of the new car market to the Government, heads of industry, the Department of Transport, financiers and, most importantly of all, customers,' said a Mitsubishi spokesman.
And, in a pointed attack on the SMMT which, in announcing the monthly figures, discusses both 'new car registrations' and then lists the 'top sellers', the importer said: 'Even the SMMT cannot tell the difference between registrations and sales as their press release proves. First it mentions registrations and then it lists the top sellers.'
An SMMT spokesman said: 'I have never heard anyone query the validity of the SMMT's figures. I am aware of no feedback to either the press department or our statistics department.' Questioned about self-registrations he said: 'I am not aware of such things going on. I don't see it on a day-to-day basis. I don't believe it is a problem although some others might.'