A result of the swing towards fleet will be a stronger bargaining position for corporate buyers and manufacturers targeting fleets in a bid to increase volume, through better deals and cars with specifications that better suit the market.
With consumer confidence at a low level, it has been left to fleet to prop up the new car market during 2005 – and that trend is set to continue for the next two years at least.
Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that last year new car sales were down 5% to 2,439,717 units. Of this, the private sector accounted for 44.1% of the market (1.076 million), with fleet sales reaching 48.6% (1.184 million) and business sales (fleets of less than 25 vehicles) taking 7.3% (178,330).
And according to the SMMT, the fleet market will continue to grow its share of the new car market. It expects fleet sales to reach 1.125 million this year and 1.1 million in 2007, compared to 1.05 million and 1.03 million respectively for private buyers. Business sales will grow this year to about 200,000 units and will remain stable through to the end of 2007.
Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the SMMT, said: ‘The economic slowdown in 2005 hit showrooms and we expect this year to be another tough year for the industry.
‘It was only a record December that has seen us through to a respectable year-end total. December’s diesel registrations boosted the total as company car drivers took advantage of the 3% benefit-in-kind tax waiver before the end of the year.’
And industry analysts agree that 2006 will see fleets exerting an even greater presence on the market.
KPMG professor Peter Cooke, at Nottingham Business School, said: ‘We will see a move back into company cars during 2006 so the sector will grow. This will be driven partly by more daily rental business as fleet managers comply with duty of care legislation, and also a growth in luxury sales as people look to express themselves more through their cars.’
Fleet buyers also drove diesel sales to a record level in 2005, with sales reaching 897,887 units – making up 37% of the new car market.
Fleets account for almost 70% of diesel sales in the UK.
Vauxhall remained the best-selling manufacturer in fleet for the third year running, reaching 218,035 sales in 2005 (down 2.3%), buoyed by a 36% increase in sales of the new Astra. Ford was in second place with 205,656 sales (down 3.4%) and Volkswagen was third with 97,247 sales (up 10.8%). The Ford Focus was once again the best-selling fleet car.
Top 10 fleet models in 2005
2005 fleet registrations by segment
|Market Segment||Year End 2000||Year End 2005|