Fleet News

January new car sales could be 50,000 down on last year

NEW car sales in January could be 50,000 below last year's figure with fleets holding on for the T registration in March partly to blame for the massive fall. Industry forecasts had predicted that January 1999 sales would be about 219,000, but it is expected that the final figure will be close to 170,000 units.

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.'

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