Fleet News

Plate changes iron out highs and lows

THE advent of the twice-yearly registration plate has succeeded in smoothing out the extreme peaks and troughs of UK new car sales. In August 1998 the new letter prefix saw the month account for about a quarter of the year's new car sales, while July had proved ghost-like on dealer forecourts.

Last year the plate changes in March and September saw lower peaks and more shallow troughs as sales plotted a more consistent line throughout 1999. While September still attracted more new buyers than March, the difference was slight, and the downturn in the months preceding the new plate prefix was virtually identical. Manufacturers and dealers will now be closely watching to see how sales fare this month, in the hope that January will become the third peak of the year, alongside the two letter prefix changes.

The new system actually created more turbulence within fleet buying patterns in 1999 compared to the single August plate change, as the graph above illustrates. In 1998, fleet sales were almost identical at a little shy of 100,000 units per month from January through to June, and from September through to the end of the year. Last year, however, sales dropped significantly in February, rose sharply for the March plate change, dropped in July and August, accelerated in September, then settled at 1998 levels for the rest of the year.

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