At the same time, January has been quieter for retail sales, which totalled 74,809, up 1.2% on the same month last year.
Diesel has inexorably continued to close the gap on petrol, with registrations up 21.7% to 42,280, meaning the total fleet market is split nearly 50/50 petrol to diesel.
Firms like Volkswagen, which registers fewer cars for daily rental and more as company cars, are seeing their diesel share of fleet sales at nearer two-thirds. Conversely, Ford’s diesel sales are less than a third: more than 4,300 Fiestas were sold in fleet, of which only 800 were diesel, while Focus diesel sales only totalled a third.
Although it is very early days for 2007, the top four best-selling fleet manufacturers have retained the same order from 2006, with Ford registering the most cars at 19,643, mainly thanks to a concerted push on Mondeo (up 42% to 4,257 compared to January 2006) and more than 500 sales of the popular new S-MAX, which was not on sale this time last year.
With new Mondeo now unveiled, the Blue Oval will be looking to consolidate its top-selling position.
Vauxhall retains the number two spot with 15,140 sales in January, although the continuing strategy of withdrawing from a lot of short-cycle business saw its total volumes slip further behind Ford.
Having stated it will be chasing more small business sales in a quality not quantity approach, and with the major launches this year confined to niche vehicles such as the Antara SUV, Corsa VXR and new Agila, the gap between it and Ford will widen over the year.
In third place, Volkswagen continues its strong showing of last year with all models in its range except the ageing Sharan people carrier performing better than this time last year.
As a result it managed around 1,500 more fleet sales than January 2006. Golf and Passat are still the major sellers in its range at more than 2,000 units each, with no other vehicle hitting four figures.
Audi had a flying start to the year. Its total fleet sale of 5,722, up 40.4% year-on-year, is more than BMW (1,945) and Mercedes-Benz (1,896) combined. Nearly 2,000 A3s and 2,214 A4s provided the bulk of the registrations.
Top 10 fleet models