The total market last month slipped by 1.5% to 169,059 units and sales to the fleet market also fell, from 1,019,835 units in 2002 to 991,129 so far this year, a drop of 2.81%.
However, diesel penetration has reached a record high at 31.1% for the total market with diesel fleet sales up for the year by 8.64% to 325,815 units, compared to 299,893 for the same period last year.
The fleet market has accounted for almost half of all diesel sales so far this year (49.58%).
In terms of total fleet sales, Vauxhall is the only top 10 manufacturer to increase fleet sales this year, up 1.65% to 205,317, making it the most popular fleet brand.
Latest figures show the Ford Focus is still the top fleet model for the year to date, with sales of 83,328, although compared to the same period last year, this represents a drop of 12.37%.
In the list of top 10 best-selling fleet cars for the year-to-date, only five models increased sales – the Vauxhall Corsa was up 23.38% to 60,493 units, the Renault Megane up 3.51% to 39,011 units, Ford Fiesta up 31.48% to 36,032 units, Vauxhall Zafira up 13.59% to 31,170 units and Peugeot 307 up 0.11% to 26,669 units.
The remainder, apart from the Focus, saw sales decrease year-on-year, with the Vauxhall Astra down 8.01% to 65,076 units, the Ford Mondeo down 17.59% to 43,594 units, Vauxhall's Vectra down 18.79% to 37,745 units and Volkswagen's Golf down 10.80% to 27,714 units.
For November, Ford was the top-selling manufacturer, with 14,952 units, down 1.37% on November 2002, just ahead of Vauxhall on 14,741, which is down 19.79%.
Among the top 10 manufacturers, Nissan had the biggest gains in November, with sales up 71.62% year-on-year to 5,121, while Peugeot had the biggest fall, down 30.22% to 5,143. The Ford Focus topped the charts for the month, with 7,361 sales, up 7.52%, several thousand units ahead of the Vauxhall Astra, with 4,675 fleet sales in November, down 30.24%.
Total new car sales to both private buyers and fleets are expected to reach 2.565 million units in 2003, compared to 2.563 last year.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'At the beginning of 2003, the industry expected new car registrations to cool, forecasting a 6% dip on 2002's total. However, a truly amazing market throughout the year has exceeded all expectations and the year is now firmly on course towards its third successive record total.
'A range of new models, good deals and strong consumer spending have sustained growth in the market although sales have cooled over the last couple of months. 'To reach the year-end forecast, 141,400 units must be registered in December, a dip of 2.2% on 2002's figure.'
Recent national newspaper reports linked a story about a £12 million trust fund for directors while the employees' pension scheme was having trouble to poor year-on-year sales in November, as demand was down by 32% (although year-on-year sales are relatively steady).
A spokesman for the firm said: 'We don't think the headlines have affected purchasing decisions because they are typically made over a period of months. 'Our November sales figures are lower than last year, but that's because we had a very good month in 2002 and it would have been difficult to repeat it this time around.
'There will always be swings and roundabouts, but so far this year our sales have been encouraging, particularly with the MG brand in Europe. Our overall sales performance this year is in line with our expectations and the total at the end of the year would be a better indicator of our record, as sales can vary from month to month.'