The strength of the fleet sector helped new car registrations rise by 2.6% in October to 134,944 units, the second increase in three months.
Fleet sector registrations equated to 73,712 units – a 7.9% increase when compared to October 2010 – with business registrations up 9.7% to 6,189 units.
Fleet and business registrations held 59.2% market share in October, revealing the continuing strength of the sector.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: "We expect market conditions to remain challenging and hope the Chancellor's Autumn Statement later this month will help to boost economic growth and consumer confidence."
The SMMT says that the market remains on track to achieve full year total of 1.923 million units, but caution remains over 2012.
“While it is positive that new car sales were up in October, this was due to the strength of the fleet sector,” said Sue Robinson, director of the RMI National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA).
Year to date sales are down 4.5% on a year ago, while fleet volumes were up 4.4% year-to-date, private registrations were down 14% year-to-date.
Robinson continued: “The economy remains very fragile with external factors such as the European debt crisis affecting its stability.
“Although last week’s news that GDP was up 0.5% gives encouragement, consumer confidence remains low. The Chancellor needs to address the lack of consumer confidence in his autumn statement on the November 29 by reviewing initiatives that could boost spending.”
Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale, Barclays Corporate, concluded: “Today’s rise highlights the hard work manufacturers and dealers have put in to manage supply and demand as well as the effectiveness of the incentives they’ve offered customers. Such efforts have helped to stabilise the market in recent months, but trading remains difficult.”