Record sales in the industry come as the new car market as a whole fell short of beating 2003’s record figure.
Fleets accounted for 1,093,494 unit sales while the private market accounted for 1,200,066, giving fleets a 42.6% share of the new car market. Business sales to sub-25 vehicle fleets were a record 273,709 units.
In total, new car registrations were 0.5% down on 2003’s figure at 2,567,269. SMMT chief executive, Christopher Macgowan said, ‘Last year was only the third on record where new car registrations broke the 2.5 million barrier. However, despite strong first quarter demand and growth in November, we missed taking the run of consecutive record years to four by just 11,781 units.
‘The market for 2005 is expected to reach about 2.465 million units which, in the context of the last 10 years, remains a robust forecast. Nevertheless, our expectations point to a slightly weaker market than in recent years, a reflection that the automotive industry is not immune to the competitive pressures affecting other sectors.’
Manufacturer fortunes were mixed but most in the top 10 increased fleet sales. Vauxhall remained the biggest selling manufacturer in fleet, fighting off a determined challenge from Ford to increase its sales lead by the end of the year compared with 2003. However, the outgoing Ford Focus remained the biggest-selling fleet car. Toyota achieved the largest sales jump of more than 20% in the top 10 fleet sales chart.
This included a 33% leap for the Avensis, to 19,127 registrations, while the Corolla grew by 5% to 8,710. However, Toyota’s second largest fleet car was the Yaris, up 13% at 9,267. The Prius reached 428 units in the fleet market, an increase of 154% over 2003, while four-wheel drive vehicles including the RAV4, Land Cruiser and Amazon also posted strong growth.
Nissan recorded the biggest percentage fall in sales in the fleet top 10, with registrations down 24% on last year.
However, company bosses last year announced a new sales strategy in a bid to improve residual values, which would have had an effect on sales. In terms of individual models, latest figures show that the Ford Focus led the way during 2004, recording 91,234 fleet sales, up more than 8% on the previous year.
The biggest percentage success was noted by the Renault Megane, with fleet registrations of 41,881 up more than 22%, while the Vauxhall Astra showed the biggest percentage fall in sales (-13.50% to 59,357 units), which was not surprising because of last year’s model change.
Latest figures also show commercial vehicle registrations reached an all-time high during 2004. A total of 389,923 units were recorded, up 9.5% on the previous year.