October's 1.1% decline in fleet sales to 72,097, taking 2000 fleet sales to 885,465, means this year's fleet sales are 1% down year-on-year and with just two months of sales to go, hopes that sector sales would top last year's remain doubtful.
This year fleet sales have dropped year-on-year seven months out of the 10 so far reported with the largest drop - 13.8% - being in September when X-plate cars were launched. Fleet sales only increased year-on-year in January (up 7.7%), March (up 10.3%) and May (up 10.7%). However, until the end of August, fleet sales were up year-on-year and only dropped behind 1999 figures in September.
There remains a feeling within manufacturers that fleet buying patterns are still in a state of transition following the March 1999 introduction of the twice-a-year registration plate change. Fleets may also be delaying taking on new cars as they wait for residual values to come out of their trough.
Alan Pulham, franchised dealer director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, said: 'The fleet and business markets remain confused by a continuing lack of clarity over prices, deterring them from risking any volume purchases. There remains some pressure on manufacturers to address their pricing policies for fleet and business buyers.'
Sales in the private sector increased 14.1%, reflecting renewed consumer confidence in the UK new car market, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. However, despite the optimistic overtures, the SMMT has reduced its 2000 new car sales prediction by 1.8% from 2.225 million sales to 2.185 million units as a consequence of sales continuing to be below 1999 levels.
Private buyers accounted for 46.5% of last month's market - up from 41.8% in October 1999 - however, despite the reduction in fleet sales the sector still accounted for the majority of new car sales with a 47% market share. Business sector sales - vehicles bought by sub-25 sector fleets - accounted for 10,093 units or 6.6% of the market - down 28.7% year-on-year.
There were mixed results for the leading fleet manufacturers last month with Ford and Vauxhall both reporting sales down year-on-year and Peugeot, Volkswagen and BMW only just improving. However, huge rises were reported by Renault - up 64% year-on-year with Clio, Megane and Laguna all performing well - Nissan up 82.4% and Citroen up 53.1%.
Top 10 best-selling fleet manufacturers in October were: Ford 15,472, Vauxhall 12,647, Renault 8,800, Peugeot 6,778, Volkswagen 5,007, Nissan 4,417, Citroen 2,376, Honda 2,089, BMW 2,031, Toyota 2,001.
Top 10 best-selling fleet models in October were: Ford Focus 7,184, Vauxhall Astra 5,081, Ford Mondeo 3,918, Vauxhall Vectra 3,364, Renault Megane 3,266, Renault Clio 3,214, Ford Fiesta 2,728, Volkswagen Golf 2,385, Peugeot 406 2,359, Peugeot 306 2,254.
Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel manufacturers in October were: Peugeot 3,155, Vauxhall 2,732, Ford 2,500, Volkswagen 1,225, Renault 972, Citroen 671, Audi 454, Nissan 412, Mercedes-Benz 339, BMW 203.
Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel manufacturers in October were: Ford Focus 1,397, Vauxhall Astra 1,340, Peugeot 406 1,279, Peugeot 306 1,091, Vauxhall Vectra 862, Volkswagen Golf 595, Renault Laguna 522, Peugeot 306 451, Ford Mondeo 421, Ford Galaxy 346.
Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel manufacturers in 2000 are: Peugeot 35,384, Ford 30,244, Vauxhall 23,903, Volkswagen 16,141, Renault 7,613, Citroen 7,462, Audi 3,988, Rover 3,685, Mercedes-Benz 3,329, BMW 3,196.
Top 10 best-selling fleet diesel models in 2000 are: Peugeot 406 15,284, Ford Focus 13,190, Peugeot 306 12,873, Vauxhall Astra 11,407, Ford Mondeo 7,845, Vauxhall Vectra 6,983, Volkswagen Passat 6,320, Volkswagen Golf 5,357, Peugeot 206 4,601, Ford Galaxy 3,898.