New car registrations grew 0.1% in August to 59,433 units, with fleet and business sales accounting for 31,871 units – 53.6% of the overall market.
The market has increased 3.3% to 1,260,997 units from January-August, up more than 40,000 units on 2011.
Fleet and business accounts for 55% of that overall market at 693,225 units, more than 2% down for the same period last year.
Accounting for around 3% of the total market, August represents a small volume month ahead of the September plate change that typically accounts for around 17% of the new car market’s annual total.
August traditionally represents a small share of the new car market as motorists anticipate the arrival of the new 62-plate in September," said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
"The economic outlook remains challenging, but vehicle manufacturers and dealers are working hard to sustain demand and deliver great value products and services to customers."
Richard Lowe, head of retail & wholesale at Barclays, added: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that September’s figures will show a strong bounce as the draw of the new plate change and attractive finance packages encourage more buyers into dealerships.”
David Raistrick, UK Manufacturing leader at Deloitte, believes original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and retailers should be somewhat relieved that UK new registrations have not declined, in contrast to other European countries.
“Car sales in Germany remain challenging; sales were down 5% from August 2011, France down 11% and Italy down 20%,” he said.
“Manufacturers and retailers will be looking for a strong September, but reliance on the two busiest months of the year is a risk, particularly when consumers remain hesitant.
“Any stimulus the UK Government and manufacturers can develop together to improve sales would be well received by all.”