That compares with January 1998 total new car sales of 232,055 (January 1997: 206,985) of which fleet sales totalled 103,533 (January 1997: 98,235). There is a strong belief that some buyers - particularly fleets - may have held off from buying new cars to wait for the introduction of the T-plate following the axing of the traditional August 1 new-plate registration system. Opinion in the fleet industry is split, with some fleet managers delaying orders and leasing companies postponing deliveries until the T-plate, while others continue with business as usual.
An industry source told Fleet News: 'We have never been in such a period of uncertainty. If the sales drop is due to the T-plate and fleets are extending replacement cycles then hopefully we can recover the 'lost' sales in March. It is not just one or two manufacturers who are down, it is the whole market, both fleet and retail.'