Fleet News

X factor hits fleet sales

FLEET sales slumped almost 20,000 units last month as the fleet industry was hit by continued uncertainty over price cuts, as manufacturers began to give in to pressure to lower list prices. Total new car sales were down around 8.7%, creating an unexpected final total of 353,494, with a drop in retail sales blamed on the fuel crisis.

However, the fuel crisis, while accounting for the 1.9% decline in retail sales to 187,791 units, does not explain the shock 13.8% decline in fleet sales to 134,478 (September 1999: 155,931) with business car sales (sales to sub-25 fleets) down 21.1% to 31,225 in what should have been a bumper sales month. Although X-plate sales in both the total new car market and the fleet sector failed to beat March's W-plate sales, industry leaders remain confident that ever-reducing new car prices will ensure new car sales figures in 2000 will beat last year's tally, once the market is more stable.

Year-to-date registrations are down 1.2% at 1,797,755 (1999: 1,820,096) and fleet sales are 1% down at 813,368 (1999: 818,201). However, it is still expected that new car sales this year will total 2.225 million. Despite the nine-month decline in fleet sales, the fleet sector's share of new car sales has increased from almost 45% to 45.2%. Ford sales were down 3.6% in September at 30,389 (1999: 31,528), but the Ford Mondeo was the largest fleet seller in its run-out month, with 10,437 sales, up 4.6%, followed by the Focus, with 10,159 sales, down 3%. Year-to-date sales were up 0.4% to 176,489 (1999: 175,781).

Mike Wear, Ford fleet operations director, blamed the overall market fall on uncertainty over pricing, the knock-on effect of the fuel crisis and a lower number of self registrations. He said: 'We were expecting a market of 160,000 vehicles, but it was down at 135,000, which is a significant shortfall. However, we outperformed the industry with strong sales for both Focus and Mondeo.'

Vauxhall fared no better with September sales down 12.2% to 23,328 (1999: 26,562), with Vectra recording a 21.6% drop in volume to 7,123. However, for the year to date, Vauxhall has increased fleet sales to 154,237 (1999: 146,290). Keith Michaels, Vauxhall's fleet marketing manager, said: 'The overall market has suffered because of uncertainty, particularly over issues such as pricing. However, if you look at our share of the fleet market, it actually increased from 17.03% to 17.35%. Year-on-year our share has risen from 17.8% to 18.96%. As well as uncertainty, this is just the effect of the cyclical nature of the industry.'

Top 10 best-selling manufacturers in September: Ford 30,389, Vauxhall 23,328, Renault 13,552, Peugeot 12,405, Volkswagen 7,754, BMW 6,908, Nissan 6,385, Citroen 4,897, Toyota 4,425, Honda 4,083. Top 10 best-selling fleet models in September: Ford Mondeo 10,437, Ford Focus 10,159, Vauxhall Astra 7,884, Vauxhall Vectra 7,123, Renault Megane 5,643, Ford Fiesta 5,145, BMW 3-series 5,099, Vauxhall Corsa 4,811, Peugeot 406 4,123, Renault Laguna 3,843.

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