Fleet and business registrations accounted for 59.5% of the new car market in November, with fleet volumes up 7.5% year to date.
Overall new car demand fell by 4.2% to 134,027 units, but was some 5,000 units above forecast, while diesel and alternatively fuelled cars both took record market shares in the November market.
Diesel cars achieved a record 55.6% share of the market in November, whilst alternatively-fuelled cars took a record 1.6% market share.
New car registrations over the first 11 months of 2011 were down 4.5%, at 1,822,065 units, but the market still looks set to better the full-year forecast of 1.923 million units.
“While the November new car market saw a 4.2% dip, the fuel efficiency of new models broke all records with the average new car achieving 52.5mpg,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“Despite the Chancellor delaying the 3p rise in fuel duty, our cost of fuel is still among the highest in Europe, so customers are sure to welcome the 29.3% improvement in new car fuel efficiency over the last 10 years, a demonstration of industry’s commitment to delivering good value to motorists.”
New car registrations were just 0.9% lower than a year ago in the last three months, and volumes over the past six months were also only down a modest 1.8%. However, the market continues to trend some 20% below pre-recession levels.
Market stability in recent months is at odds with growing concerns over the economic setting. Whilst the Autumn Statement announced some welcome measures to stimulate growth, the latest forecasts for the UK economy and concerns over the Eurozone are unsettling.
David Raistrick, UK manufacturing industry leader for Deloitte, said: “As we predicted, November’s new car registration figures are down 4.2% as consumer confidence continues to fall.
“Whilst the market remains subdued, with only 134,027 new registrations in November, this is slightly better than may have been expected. This decrease does not come as a surprise to the industry, as various factors have been contributing to a fall in new car buyers’ confidence. While retailers are certainly feeling this decline, fleet sales continue to perform well.”
He continued: “Taking into account various economic and environmental factors; our work, in conjunction with the NFDA , suggests that total new car registrations for 2012 will only reach 1.84 million, and could even fall as low as 1.8 million.”
Sue Robinson, director of the RMI NFDA, added: “While the economy remains fragile and the European debt crisis continues to affect stability, consumer confidence remains very low.
“Many consumers are finding their finances very constrained due to inflationary pressure on house hold bills. Those who do have money to spare are putting off larger purchases until there are signs that the economy is starting on a road to recovery.
“In previous months the strong fleet market ensured the new car market remained stable. However we predict that new registrations in this sector will begin to fall and continue into 2012 as businesses have now caught up with their change cycle having delayed purchasing during 2009/10.”
Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale, Barclays Corporate, concluded: “Last year, we saw a rush of people buying cars ahead of the VAT increase in January 2011, so today’s drop in year on year figures should not come as a surprise.
“The drop is marginal and follows months of stability, bucking the trend of the wider economy. Our clients are reporting steady footfall, helped by positive incentives and discounts dealers and manufacturers are putting in place.
“Next year will be challenging as consumers continue to tighten their purse strings, but with businesses actively seeking out M&A opportunities, we are hopeful that the stability of recent months continues.”