Fleet sales in the luxury off-road sector – models such as the Range Rover, BMW X5 and Audi Q7 – have seen very healthy increases this year, up 20.2% to 20,841 compared with 2005.
Smaller SUV sales are only marginally up in fleet, although whether this is a slowdown in demand is difficult to ascertain due to models such as Freelander and CR-V being in run-out in latter part of 2006.
Again, upper-medium fleet sales were the biggest loser, down 10.4% year-on-year to 249,687. With convertibles up more than 20%, small SUVs up 4% and coupes up 9%, it suggest fleets are fragmenting into ever more diverse niches.
The overall new car market reached 2.34 million sales in 2006, down 3.9% on 2005. Fleet accounted for 49.3% of sales, with business registrations to companies operating 25 vehicles or fewer reaching a 6.6% share.
BMW was the third biggest seller in fleet in December at 7,658 – up 19.2%. Powering this were nearly 1,100 X3 sales, up 137% on December 2005. The facelift and entry-level 2.0d seem to have lured new buyers, although the twin-turbo 3.0sd has also acted as a halo model.
More than 500 Z4s (up 504% on December 2005), nearly 2,400 3-series and 1,500 5-series also contributed to put BMW behind only Ford and Vauxhall in the December list.
Audi continued its march up the fleet sales chart, with the biggest year-on-year improvement among the major fleet players – up 20.5% to 45,076 over 2005. It finally started shifting more A6s (up 45.3% to 7,504) thanks to more aggressive pricing and spec enhancements.
Renault will try and forget 2006 as a year when its range found little favour and it saw a massive swing between itself and arch-rival Peugeot.
In 2005, Renault sold nearly 100,000 cars while Peugeot managed 65,000. By the end of 2006, Peugeot had totalled 75,000 while Renault nearly 74,000. With sales of Megane, Laguna, Espace and Scenic all significantly down, the firm will be hoping that the new Laguna due this year will invigorate the brand.
Finally, Ford and Vauxhall continued their domination of the fleet arena, with the Blue Oval retaining the number one spot with sales up by 0.6%, with Vauxhall second, down by 10.8%.