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SALES FIGURES: Prestige and budget brands buck the market slump (continued)

Date: 10 February 2009

Page 2 of 2

Focus stretches out

Despite losing its position as number one fleet brand, Ford held onto the top model slot, with the Focus actually increasing its advantage over Vauxhall's Astra. The gap at the end of 2007 was just 38 units, but by the end of 2008 had grown to 5698 cars. Vauxhall's Corsa did, though, jump to third spot as the Ford Fiesta slipped away, due to the switch from old model to new and the Corsa enjoying a full year of sales for the latest-generation car.

The big riser is Volvo's S40/V50 saloon and estate siblings, up 31 positions to 23 and almost doubling their volume on 2007. Volvo claims the monumental growth comes as a result of a revamp of the range, combined with SMR offers.

Nissan is heading quickly in the right direction, too, on the back of strong figures for its latest breed of impressive new products. The supermini-MPV Note is up 28.4% and lower medium Qashqai up 20.8%, and both are inside the top 30 models.

Heading rapidly in the opposite direction is the Renault Scenic, admittedly in its final full year of sales, but down 14 places to position 27. Also in reverse is Saab's 9-5.

One of the longest-standing cars on sale in the UK, the executive model lost more than half of its fleet sales last year, dropping outside the 150 models in the process. Not great when the replacement isn't exactly looming.

With the exception of Ford's Mondeo and the Vauxhall Vectra, mainstream upper medium models continued to struggle. The French trio of the Citroen C5, Peugeot 407 and Renault Laguna are a prime example. The Laguna, in its first full year of a new model, was the best of the three, ranking 58, six places ahead of the older 407, which slid back by 58.9% on 2007. The C5, admittedly in its changeover year to a significantly more impressive new version, ranked 79 on its re-entry to the top 100.

Sector sales

The only sectors to grow on 2007's stats were predictably the small, economical ones. City cars were up 3.2% and supermini-MPVs up 18.1%, but every other sector saw a fall. It's no shock that the biggest percentage drop was among the

large off-road market, plunging by more than a third, while luxury saloons and cabrios were also struggling in 2008. However, the core business segments of lower and upper medium both performed better than the market average so increased their share of the pie. Combined new fleet registrations for the two now stand at 50.3% compared with 49.8 in the preceeding year.

Unfortunately, in terms of the overall market 2009 isn't looking any better. Estimates range between 1.65m and 1.8m units, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predicting 1.72m new car registrations in 2009, which would be a 17.3% fall on the sliding market of last year.

The evidence is there in the form of factory closures across the world as manufacturers attempt to stem supply. Next year's figures will make interesting reading as we judge which brands and sectors are still sought after despite the recession, and which could be struggling to cope with severely reduced demand.