According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this could be the second year running that UK new car registrations break the 2.5 million barrier and this year's car sales are poised to be the second highest on record. However, after the last two months of strong growth, sales are expected to slacken off towards the end of the year.
As well as strong growth in commercial new car sales, fleet demand has also recovered slightly during the second quarter of the year. Two months of growth have reduced the previously alarming year-to-date sales decrease to a mere 1.8% in the fleet sector. Fleet registrations stand at 633,714 for the year, down from 645,365 at the same point last year.
The increasing popularity of diesel vehicles in UK fleets is also reflected in the SMMT's figures, with year on year demand for diesels from the fleet sector having increased by 7% and diesel registrations having increased for 34 months in succession.
The Ford Mondeo remains the best selling diesel vehicle for UK fleet operators, followed by the Ford Focus. Nationwide, the supermini category proved the most popular for purchases in the overall new car market, with the Ford Focus retaining its leading sales position, with 10,781 units sold in July.
Such trends are also reflected in the commercial vehicles market, particularly in the light commercial sector, which saw a 13.5% year on year increase during July. In fact, July turned out to be a record month for sales, with 28,398 new commercial vehicles being registered in that month alone. Total commercial vehicle registrations this year may yet top 340,000 units, making 2003 the third best year for sales in the last three decades. This market has benefited from lower interest rates and the increasingly attractive leasing and credit arrangements being offered in the sector.
However, for both the fleet and commercial car market a note of caution is sounded by the SMMT, which expects sales to slacken off again by the end of the year after the past two months of growth.