Fleet News

News analysis: February sales show confidence is still high among car buyers

IF there is a sure sign that the car industry is enjoying something of a boom at the moment, then sales of luxury marque Bentley would be it.

Considering expensive luxuries are normally the first for the axe when times get hard, the firm has seen orders leap 96% year-on-year over the past two months. Admittedly, this only accounts for 55 vehicles, but when each of them retails for more than £100,000, such a significant increase is a sign of growing confidence.

Total new car registrations for February were up 18.1% year-on-year, at 93,515 sales, taking year-to-date sales to 298,991, a rise of 12% on last year's record start to the car buying year.

Despite this, and predictions of an all-time record for sales in March, experts at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders believe car sales will fall back later in the year to end 4.4% down on 2001's landmark year when 2,458,769 new cars were sold.

Fleet and sub-25 vehicle sales rose strongly in February, with fleet sales up 8.7% to 46,311 units. For the year-to-date, total fleet sales are up 9.4% at 137,691. This is the ninth month in a row that fleet sales have increased. Sub-25 vehicle sales were up 38.7% last month, to 7,158 and are running 29.7% ahead for the year-to-date, at 29,726.

Overall, the increase in sales figures marked the 17th consecutive month of growth in car sales, a phenomenon that has already sparked warnings of dire consequences in the vehicle disposal market.

Throughout the fleet and private markets, both for petrol and diesel, the Ford Focus remains the dominant force, taking top place for the 22nd month overall and last month outselling the other top-10 models by two to one.

Supermini registrations have grown by 17.1% to account for 31.3% of the total new car market, although demand for lower- and upper-medium models has also been strong.

Diesel registrations soared 63.5% year-on-year in February, to 21,302 units, accounting for 22.8% of the new car market, the highest level since 1995. In the fleet market, diesel sales were up by 54%, at 12,597 units, compared to petrol sales which were down 2.1% at 33,714.

Ford led the fleet sales charts for February, with sales up 4.1% at 12,789 units, followed by Vauxhall, up 21.6% at 9,407, Peugeot up 3.6% at 4,256, Renault up 18% at 3,869 and Volkswagen up 27% at 3,416.

The two biggest increases of the month, however, came from BMW/MINI, with a 44.2% increase in sales to 1,312, taking it to seventh place in the fleet sales league table for the month and Audi, doubling sales to 1,171 year-on-year, for 10th place.

Among the top 10 fleet and retail sellers in February, which was dominated by the Ford Focus, four cars notched up improvements of more than 50%, with the Vauxhall Vectra up 50.2% in fourth place, ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa in fifth place, up 73.7%, the Volkswagen Golf in seventh, up 57.6% and the Vauxhall Zafira in ninth, up 59.4%.

In the fleet diesel market, all the top 10 manufacturers during February notched up sales increases in double or treble figures, with the arrival of Volvo diesels in volume giving it a staggering increase of 4,480% to 229 sales to take 10th place.

Peugeot topped the fleet diesel sales charts for February, with 2,292 sales, followed by Ford (2,289), Volkswagen (1,667), Vauxhall (1,492) and Citroen (948). Again, the Ford Focus topped the model sales chart for last month and also tops the chart for year-to-date sales.

  • VOLKSWAGEN is fighting for the crown of biggest diesel manufacturer in the UK amid predictions that nearly 45% of its sales will have been diesel by the end of this year.

    The leap in demand for diesel will push its share of heavy oil sales up from 32% for 2001. Polo diesel sales will double this year, to 14% of the range, the firm said, while 53% of Golf sales will be diesels, along with 74% of Sharans and 80% of Golf and Passat estates.

    Paul Willis, director of Volkswagen UK, said: 'Last year, we were number two in the UK for diesel sales, but this year we intend to be number one.'

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