Although July's total new car sales slipped 6.4% year-on-year to 156,588 and fleet sales dropped 4.2% to 73,527, industry leaders blamed the drop on the market coming to terms with the impact of the twice-a-year plate change following its introduction last year.
With total 2000 new car sales up 1.1% to 1,373,033 and fleet sales up 2.5% to 640,330, the SMMT predicted the UK new car market would grow by 25,000 units this year to 2,225,000, putting it ahead of last year's 2,197,615 units. And with fleet sales up 2.5% this year and taking a 46.64% share of the UK new car market it is STILL fleet business, which is leading the upsurge.
Ford and Vauxhall each saw fleet sales fall year-on-year - although fleet sales of the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Astra rose by 21.3% and 18.6% respectively. Elsewhere Peugeot (up 4.6% year-on-year), Renault (up 13.2%), Fiat (up 6.8%), Toyota (up 52.8%), Citroen (up 45.1%) and Honda (up 7.1%) all reported fleet sales rises last month.
The SMMT made its prediction claiming that a range of attractive deals and new models coupled with publication of the long-awaited new car pricing legislation made the year ahead 'very bright'.
However, the Retail Motor Industry Federation said manufacturers must deliver a clear 'value for money' message immediately to enable dealers to recapture lost private sales and take advantage of a potentially strong market.
But the predicted sales boom for September's X-registration plate may fall flat according to Tim Holmes, managing director of HSBC Vehicle Finance, who believes car buyers have failed to comprehend how much the Government's campaign to reduce new car prices has damaged the used car market.
He said: 'Fleets may be expecting a drop in new car prices of 10%, but used values have fallen by 30% over the last few years to record lows. Fleet managers are going to be in for a bit of a shock when they go to trade in their old cars and find they are not worth what they expected.'
Top ten best-selling fleet manufacturers in July were: Ford 17,761, Vauxhall 12,639, Peugeot 7,033, Renault 6,366, Volkswagen 4,529, Fiat 3,814, Toyota 3,170, Nissan 2,749, Citroen 2,363, Honda 2,153.
Top ten best-selling fleet cars in July were: Ford Mondeo 6,339, Ford Focus 5,311, Vauxhall Astra 4,824, Vauxhall Vectra 3,709, Ford Fiesta 3,032, Renault Megane 2,406, Peugeot 306 2,284, Peugeot 406 2,150, Vauxhall Corsa 2,082, Renault Laguna 1,862.