Network Automotive managing director Colin Bruder said: ‘A substantial proportion of dealer and manufacturer profitability in recent years has come from sales of large off-roaders.
‘While the bottom is not about to fall out of this market, there are signs that it is slowing considerably, especially as concerns about the environmental impact of these vehicles mount up.
‘One way of countering this is to promote these models to the kind of markets where their core off-road abilities have strong appeal – such as fire, ambulance, police and specialist public sector fleets – and the demand for this kind of vehicle is consistent and relatively strong.’
Mr Bruder said manufacturer and dealer interest had been sporadic because of retail demand for off-roaders, which he said had ‘served as something of a distraction’.
He added: ‘With that retail demand starting to plateau and possibly slide, there is potential for manufacturers and dealers to maximise large 4x4 sales opportunities through this route.’
In 2006, fleet sales were up in all categories of 4x4, off-road and luxury SUVs, while registration were down or flat in all equivalent retail sectors, although the unusually high number of models in run-out last year may have been a contributory factor.