NEW car sales in 2003 are still on track to be the second highest on record – and latest figures suggest fleet demand has recovered through the second quarter of the year.
Total new car sales so far are 917 units up on last year's historic figures and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) expects to end the year with 2.52 million new car registrations.
This would make it only the second year that UK figures have broken the 2.5 million barrier. In 2002, registrations hit 2,563,631 units.
Figures show that fleet demand has recovered during the second half of the year and is now 1.8% down for the year to date. Total fleet registrations for the year stand at 633,714 units, down from 645,365 units during the same period last year.
Diesel sales were up by 7%, from 187,397 units to 200,509, while petrol sales were down 5.4%, from 457,940 to 433,203.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'July new car registrations have continued the rising trend with figures up on 2002's ground-breaking results for the first time this year.
'The last two months have seen registrations climb, although the market is expected to ease towards the end of the year.
'We now expect the year to close just under 2002's total, at 2.52 million units, making 2003 the second-highest year on record.'
Diesel registrations saw their 34th successive monthly increase, up 11.9% in July and 15.7% for the year to date.
The Ford Mondeo was the best-selling diesel model in July, with 2,161 registrations, followed by the Ford Focus (2,022 units) in second place and the Volkswagen Passat in third (1,916 units).
Superminis again dominated the best-selling cars, taking five of the top 10 spots. The Ford Focus remained the UK's best-selling car, shifting 10,781 units in July.
Commercial vehicle sales up
Commercial vehicle sales for July hit a record high.
Light commercial sales were again the driving force behind the sector's sales increase, totalling 23,518 units in July, up 13.5% on the same month the previous year. For the year to date sales reached 174,418 units, up 14.2% for the same period last year.
In total, CV sales topped 28,398 units, an increase of 11.8%.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'CV registrations hit a record level in July. Not only did it mark the fifth straight month's growth this year, but it also marked the third record monthly market of 2003.
'This comes on top of a big rise last year. Fierce competition, lower interest rates and attractive credit/leasing terms all contributed to encourage investment in CVs. The excellent results this year mean that the annual total should beat last year's 322,258 units. The final figure may be as high as 340,000 units, making it the third highest in the last 30 years.'