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Record fleet registrations drive car market to new high

Date: 09 February 2016   |   Author:

The UK's new car market was the biggest on record in 2015, as the fleet sector fuelled a fourth consecutive year of growth according to the SMMT. Paul Barker examines the numbers

An all-time high of 2.63 million new cars were registered last year, with fleet increasing its share of the market by now accounting for exactly 50.0% of the 1,317,570 cars registered during 2015.

Fleet was up by 11.8% on 2014, pushing the overall car market to a 6.3% rise despite retail numbers running at just 2.5% higher than what was seen in the previous 12 months. In total, 108,758 more cars went into the fleet sector than retail, reinforcing the former's importance to the UK car market and to the automotive industry.

A further 107,121 vehicles were logged as 'business', meaning small fleet users, giving the business car sector a 54.1% chunk of the market.

"The new car market defied expectations in 2015, hitting an all-time record driven by strong consumer and business confidence," says Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. "The past four years have seen a remarkable period of sustained growth, and the outlook remains positive, with every reason to expect the market to hold broadly steady in 2016."

Ford steams ahead

As per usual, Ford topped the manufacturer's chart, increasing its lead by more than 14,000 cars to 37,347 over second-placed Vauxhall; which saw its market share slide from 12.0% to 11.1%, thanks to a registration rise of 3.4% - the slowest rate of increase in the top 10 against the fleets sector average of 11.8% up (if you discount Citroen's separation from its DS brand). In mitigation, the Astra was down by more than 5000 fleet registrations because the new model was only launched mid-year.

Despite its troubles in the latter part of last year, Volkswagen maintained third position, although a 5.4% increase in registrations over 2014 was also well below the market average, and saw the firm's fleet sector share drop by half a percentage point to 9.1%. With BMW recording a 23.7% increase on 2014 - better than any other brand this side of 18th-placed Mini - the gap between third and fourth closed by more than 10,000 units to 24,581 units.

That result for BMW meant it regained the premium brand top spot a year after Audi nicked it, and BMW put more than 10,000 units of space between itself and its arch rival. Audi wasn't helped by it being changeover year to a new A4, which plunged down the model table as a result, but Mercedes is now threatening to make it a real three-way fight for top premium brand spot, closing to within 8095 units of its
rival. Nissan, meanwhile, is just 189 units behind Mercedes after a strong year that saw the Qashqai hit the top five biggest-selling models in fleet.

Citroen being passed by Hyundai was the only position swap in the top 10 apart from BMW and Audi,
and as referenced above, that was only due to the separation of the French brand from its premium DS sibling, which is now an independent listing down in 27th place. Combine the two, as was the case with the 2014 figure, and Citroen would have maintained ninth place with an 8.5% growth in registrations.

It's then as you were down to the edge of the top 15, where the 500X small crossover was the catalyst for Fiat jumping ahead of Volvo and Honda, while the other most impressive results on the fringe of the top 20 saw Mini 34.8% up year-on-year as the new five-door hatch began to find favour, and Land Rover record the best increase in the top 20.

A 41.2% rise in fleet registrations was fuelled largely by the new Discovery Sport model and the revised Evoque, which now has emissions as low as 109g/km thanks to new engines. That car also made a somewhat surprising appearance in the top 50 models, sneaking into the final spot on the chart after a 56.8% year-on-year rise in corporate sales.

Reg Graph3