THE company car market is heading for another million-selling year – its seventh in succession – hammering home the importance British businesses place on fleet vehicles.
By the end of August, fleet sales had reached 674,912 units, a small fall of 1.7%, while business car sales have climbed by 6.6% to 155,087.
Together, the two markets account for 50.8% of the new car market. With just four months of the sales year left to go, the company car market is already within touching distance of the one-million unit barrier. Sales first broke through the benchmark figure in 1997, when 1,018,491 fleet cars were sold.
Last year, the market hit an all-time record of 1,090,398 sales. With registrations just 10,000 below 2002 levels by the end of August, a near record high could still be achieved.
Private car sales for the year to date are up 0.6% at 803,586, leaving the total car market up 0.2% at 1,633,585. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said it stood by predictions of total sales of 2.52 million units for 2003, down 1.7% compared to last year's record.
For August, private sales were 42,885, a rise of 3.5% compared to last year, while fleet sales were 41,108 (down 0.3%) and business sales were up 16.2% at 5,345.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'With a change to the '53' number plate on September 1, we might have expected a dip in August registrations but once again the new car market has climbed. Growth of more than 2% in a traditionally low volume month is good news for the industry, showing a healthy market and a positive outlook for a strong September and year-end total.'