The September plate change saw 332,476 new cars registered, just 0.8% down on last year, with fleet and business accounting for 53.3% market share.
Quarter three volumes were down just 0.7%, with January to September volumes down 5.0% on a year ago, while average new car CO2 emissions fell by 4% to 138.5g/km.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) expects the full year new car market to end 5.3% below 2010 levels at 1.92 million units.
“The all-important September market outperformed expectations and is less than 1% below last year at 332,476 units,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“We expected 2011 to be a challenging year and we are on track for a full year total of around 1.92 million new car registrations, 5% below 2010.
“SMMT has revised down its 2012 registrations forecast to 1.96 million units; a reflection of the continued weakness in UK domestic demand and the uncertainty across European economies.
“It is important government acts to sustain an investment-led recovery and implements measures to encourage more private sector investment in R&D, skills, new plants and machinery.”
David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at Deloitte, said: “Today’s figures indicate an overall shift from retention to replacement, with buyers having previously deferred purchases and now feeling they can delay no further.
“Overall this has led to broadly flat growth. I would expect cautious relief that the numbers have been generally retained at last year’s levels.”
He added: “Numbers in the corporate sector have been steady, with several favourable factors contributing to an increase in sales. Today’s news helps confirm that new car registrations remain likely to reach around the 1.9 million mark at the end of December.”
Sue Robinson, Director of the RMI National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers across the UK, concluded: “Although it is positive to see a rise in fleet car sales volumes, there is still great cause for concern in the retail car market.”
To view September's new car sales figures and download monthly new car sales figures please click here.
For previous new car sales figures please click on the links below:
New Car Sales January 2011
New Car Sales February 2011
New Car Sales March 2011
New Car Sales April 2011
New Car Sales May 2011
New Car Sales June 2011
New Car Sales July 2011
New Car Sales August 2011
New Car Sales September 2011