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Appetite for company cars continues to grow

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A growing appetite for company cars is driving the fleet market in 2011 faster than published figures suggest.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the fleet market has grown by 3.3% so far this year. But a more detailed breakdown of the fleet market, seen by Fleet News, shows the proportion of cars supplied to fleet operators has increased by 11%.

The SMMT’s published fleet figures fail to differentiate between ‘true fleet’ sales, ‘Motability’, ‘daily rental’ and ‘captives’ (which includes cars provided to manufacturers’ own staff).

Instead, it gives monthly registration totals which are split into ‘fleet’ and ‘business’, with the business figure representing cars joining fleets of 25 vehicles or less.
In July for example, fleet sales figures have again bolstered the new car market, accounting for 57.4%.

The year-to-date proportion of 52.8% is now the highest figure since well before the recession started in 2008.

But figures seen by Fleet News show true fleet at 37,154 units is actually less than half of the 75,505 units the SMMT has under its heading of fleet.

Split that July true fleet figure down by attributing it to individual manufacturers and Ford’s top spot of 11,915 units, according to the SMMT’s published data, becomes 3,214 true fleet sales and puts it in fourth place behind Volkswagen, Audi and BMW.

Vauxhall, which the SMMT had in second place with 11,647 units, is actually ranked fifth in true fleet with 2,943 units – a 5% drop on what it achieved in true fleet in July 2010, rather than the 3% increase on the SMMT’s fleet figure.

One in every four of Vauxhall’s 11,647 fleet cars sold in July actually went into daily rental, a 61% increase on the 2,490 units entering that sector in July 2010.
Overall, daily rental accounts for 15,874 units out of the remaining 38,351 new car registrations in July which are not included in the true fleet figure.

Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen are first, second and third respectively in a table which also reveals Kia’s business in the daily rental market has seen a massive jump when compared to July 2010.

Kia registered 1,032 cars into daily rental last month, a 180% increase on July 2010 when daily rental accounted for just 358 units, although its retail sales were swelled perhaps unusually in 2010 as the scrappage scheme – in which the brand enjoyed substantial success – was being wound up.

In July 2011, Kia also witnessed a 77% increase in true fleet sales, and is up 76% in true fleet for the year to date.

In July, 23% of what the SMMT describes as fleet was actually Motability, accounting for 17,456 units.

Vauxhall, Ford and Nissan were number one, two and three respectively in the sector, with Motability accounting for 35% of Vauxhall’s overall fleet sales.

Head of communications at the SMMT Nikki Rooke said: “Our monthly reports are designed to give an overview of the market, including the fleet, business and private sales breakdown.

“Sales categories such as Motability, daily rental and captive are all included in the higher-level fleet sales category, but the criteria for each of these can vary between companies.

“While this more granular level of detail is available through the MVRIS system, SMMT’s monthly releases are designed to give an accurate and consistent top level overview of the market.”

But taking the headline figures from the SMMT, overall new car registrations fell marginally by 3.5% to 131,634 units in July, reflecting the “impact of slower economic growth and subdued consumer confidence”, according to Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.

He added: “While the coming months remain challenging, performance in the second half of 2011 is expected to keep the market on course to reach around 1.93 million units.”

Nevertheless, new car registrations have fallen consecutively over the past 13 months. Diesel registrations were just 53 units shy of last July’s level and over the year-to-date have grown by more than 35,000 units to account for 50.2% of the overall market and 52.4% of the July market, up from 44.0% and 50.6% respectively a year ago.

Vauxhall’s Insignia was the top selling diesel in July, just ahead of the year-to-date best-selling Volkswagen Golf.

The Ford Fiesta was the bestselling model in the overall new car market in both July and the year-to-date.

The supermini segment accounted for an improved 34.2% share of the July market in 2011, but only the mini and executive segments posted growth in the month.

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