Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that new car registrations were 442,940 for the month, down 5.1% on last year’s record-breaking March.
Much of the corporate success came from a 26.6% rise in sales to sub-25 vehicle fleets during March, which offset a slight fall of 2.8% for larger fleet sales. The year-to-date figures mean that fleet sales now account for 46.3% of the new car market, with sales to sub-25 vehicle fleets accounting for 7.8%.
Once again, Vauxhall topped the fleet sales chart, although its sales are 5.6% down year-to-date, thanks mainly to a huge 25.2% drop in demand for the Corsa.
Fortunately for Vauxhall, sales of new Astra are up by the same amount, softening the blow. Paul Adler, Vauxhall’s brand manager – fleet, said: ‘Our sales volume is down, but we are delighted to be number one in fleet. Our core business is sales to 25-plus vehicle fleets and that part is very strong.’
Elsewhere in the General Motors empire, Saab enjoyed a massive boost, thanks to sharing fleet sales staff with Vauxhall.
Demand for the 9-3 and 9-5 rocketed in March, with fleet sales up by 121%, helping to make the UK Saab’s biggest market in the world.
Tony Bridge, Saab’s fleet development manager, said: ‘The soaring sales success has been across both model ranges and is testimony to the tremendous value proposition we now offer.
‘Corporate customers have become increasingly aware of the excellent specification, outstanding safety and superb build quality that the current generation of Saabs offer.’
And Saab is not the only premium marque to do well in the fleet sales charts, with multi-Fleet News Award winner Audi and BMW up 38.1% and 16% respectively. Another big fleet winner in March was Honda, which saw sales increase by 44.9% thanks mainly to a 156% rise in sales of the Accord diesel.
The firm’s head of corporate sales, Stephen Hollings, said: ‘The important thing for us is to increase fleet volume in the right way. That fact that our growth derives from user-choosers picking our product represents very healthy growth. With the next generation Civic waiting in the wings, our competitors’ headaches are only going to get worse.’
Van sales increase by 2.2%
DEMAND for commercial vehicles up to 3.5-tonnes increased 2.2%. Year to date sales are 85,877.
Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘The rolling year CV registration total is above 390,000 units and we expect that to continue. Investment in new vans and trucks is at a very high level and we predict total registrations will nudge last year’s record total. The immediate economic outlook continues to be good, despite slower growth in consumer spending.’
Car sales fact file