New car registrations fell by 13.2% in July, following 12 successive monthly rises.
However, fleet registrations rose by 2.7% to 73,973 cars. Business registrations - those to fleets of less than 25 vehicles - fell by 6.5% to 6,761 cars.
Fleet registrations for the month accounted for 54.2% of the total market, while registrations to small fleets made up a further 5% of the market. This means sales of new cars to fleets accounted for 59.2% of the total market.
Despite the fall in private and business sales, the overall market remains up 15.1% over the first seven months of 2010 compared to 2009.
Year to date figures for fleet registrations show that fleets have still bought 14.8% more new cars so far this year compared to 2009. Business registrations are up almost 5% over the same seven-month period.
Total new car sales for 2010 are expected to total 2.018 million units, 1.2% above 2009 market, according to SMMT’s revised forecast.
Sales of diesel cars hit a record high of 50.6% of all sales in July, whilst sales of alternatively fuelled cars also hit a record 1.4% share.
Petrol car registrations, which had benefitted most from the scrappage scheme that ended earlier in the year, were down sharply.
It is expected that the market will continue to slow in second half of 2010, but remain broadly stable over full year.
The outlook is difficult to predict due to uncertainty over the state of the economy, impact of VAT changes at the start of 2011, levels of pent-up business demand and manufacturers’ ability to build on the past growth momentum, says the SMMT.
“A drop in private registrations compared to the scrappage-fuelled months of 2009 was expected and has brought the first market decline for 12 months,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“Subdued consumer confidence and a still fragile economic recovery make the outlook for the remainder of 2010 challenging, but a stronger than expected first half means full year volumes are still forecast to exceed 2009’s total.”
The Ford Fiesta was the best selling model in July, as it was over the year-to-date.