Fleet News

January sales 50,000 down as buyers hold off for T-plate

THE launch of the T-plate on March 1 is having a major impact on early 1999 sales with the January new car market 50,213 units down on a year ago. However, the brunt of the fall-off was in the private and small business car market as fleet sales - those companies operating 25 or more vehicles - dropped 14,245 to 89,353 units from January 1998's all-time January fleet record of 103,598. Despite the 13.8% fall in fleet sales year-on-year fleet's share of the total new car market increased to 49.14% (January 1998: 44.64%).

As Fleet NewsNet predicted last week fleets and private consumers waiting for the T-plate have had a dramatic effect on January new car sales which totalled 181,842 (January 1998: 232,055) - 21.6% down year-on-year. But there are indications that other factors as well as the launch of the T-plate on March 1 have impacted on January new car sales.

In announcing the January figures on Thursday, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said other issues which had resulted in the sales slump were concern over the possibility of new legislation for graduated vehicle excise duty and company car tax, and uncertainty in the market place with a slowdown in consumer expenditure and confidence. That continues despite the Bank of England's decision to cut interest rates to 5.5% from 6% in a bid to restore consumer confidence on the same day as the new car sales figures were announced

Industry figures indicated that the January slump could have been worse but for some last day registrations which saw Ford register 3,500 units - 46% of the day's total - Renault more than 1,300 vehicles and Nissan more than 500. In the last five days of January 1998 63,000 cars were registered. Peugeot fleet and leasing director John Taylor said: 'There has been some hold-off by customers but whether that accounts for all of the decline is not clear. If it did I would not expect there to be any increase in sales as the month progressed. The percentage decline started higher than it finished so there were a lot of pre-registrations towards the end of the month.'

Vauxhall fleet marketing manager Keith Michaels said: 'The fall can be completely attributable to a hold-off for T-plates. There is nothing coming out of the Treasury which says there is going to be really dramatic moves in the Budget, although there will probably be some interesting announcements. Therefore, I don't think fleet operators are being influenced by what may or may not happen in the Budget.'

Year to date 1999 best selling fleet models (position this time last year):

  1. Ford Mondeo (1) - 6,040

  2. Vauxhall Astra (4) - 5,463

  3. Vauxhall Vectra (2) - 5,305

  4. Ford Fiesta (6) - 5,187

  5. VW Golf (24) - 3,512

  6. Renault Megane (5) - 3,426

  7. Ford Focus (n/a) - 3,317

  8. Peugeot 406 (7) - 2,959

  9. Vauxhall Corsa (13) - 2,917

  10. Peugeot 306 (8) - 2,738

  11. Renault Clio (11) - 2,726

  12. Fiat Punto (16) - 2,334

  13. Renault Laguna (10) - 2,246

  14. VW Passat (14) - 2,124

  15. Ford Escort (3) - 1,940

  16. Vauxhall Omega (23) - 1,859

  17. Toyota Avensis (49) - 1,598

  18. Rover 400 (9) - 1,561

  19. BMW 3-series (17) - 1,542

  20. Rover 200 (12) - 1,409

  21. Honda Civic (28) - 1,404

  22. Nissan Micra (18)- 1,154

  23. Peugeot 206 (n/a) - 1,127

  24. Audi A4 (27) - 1,006

  25. Honda Accord (31)- 966

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