Last month, 417,052 new cars were registered according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), down 3.2% on last September’s figure and well short of the 443,265 record for twice-yearly plate changes set in September 2001.
Fleet sales were down 3.3% year-to-date, but once again sales to sub-25-vehicle fleets rose, this time up 17.3%.
Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the SMMT, said: ‘The new car market is fiercely competitive this year and manufacturers are fighting hard for every sale.’
While overall sales are down, diesel cars continue to rise in popularity, with September marking 60 months of continuous market share growth.
Last month, 153,314 diesels were registered, representing 36.8% of the new car market. In comparison, its market share in 1999 stood at just 13.8%.
Macgowan added: ‘Diesel has continued what seems an inexorable rise in popularity.
‘This may well have a lot to do with soaring fuel costs and the economy benefits that diesel brings to drivers.’
In the fleet market, Vauxhall maintained its number one sales position, although registrations were down 6.4% year-to-date.
In the rest of the top 10, Nissan recorded the biggest rise, up 39.9% year-to-date, while Honda was up 31.9% and BMW up 28.2%.
The Ford Focus remains the best-selling fleet model with sales up 0.6% year-to-date, although the new Vauxhall Astra continues to close in on its nemesis, recording a 38.4% rise.
Macgowan added: ‘Commercial vehicle registrations are remarkably strong this year, with autumn figures reflecting this spring’s confidence and sales. ‘Some sectors are doing better than others, but overall registrations should beat 2004’s annual total and despite recent mixed messages from the market, we think overall registrations will look good well into 2006.’