Fleets bought 1,013,499 new cars last year (1998: 1,055,816), breaching the one million mark for the third year running and making 1999 the third highest fleet market on record. In addition, official Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders' figures for the business market show that companies running fewer than 25 vehicles bought 186,690 new cars in 1999, an increase of 14.4% over 1998.
This means that employer cheque books accounted for 1,200,189 new cars in 1999, some 54.6% of the whole new car market. How many of these registrations were actually 'sold', however, remains a moot point, with the Consumers' Association reheating Mitsubishi claims that as many as 500,000 recorded sales had no immediate home to go to apart from an airfield or dealer forecourt.
In the event, some 2,197,615 new cars were registered in 1999, 2.2% down on 1998's 2,247,402, but still the fourth highest year on record and a remarkable performance in a market undermined by the belief that European price harmonisation will see UK new car prices plummet.