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.