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Sales hit new high in shock September

Date: 11 October 2006

More business cars found new homes last month than any other on record, with the September plate change and a competitive market fuelling registrations to a new high of 187,528 units.

While retail sales slipped back by 3.7% last month, fleet sales were up 3.1% on September 2005, bucking early predictions of a difficult month and smashing the March 2005's previous high of 183,795.

The March 2005 figure was in part driven by a reclassification of dealer demonstration cars as fleet registrations at the end of 2004, but registrations had been gradually rising despite this.

Last month's result is especially impressive given that the market, until now, has been down 2.4% over the first eight months of the year with no reason to foresee an upturn. Following September's spike it now sits at 1.3% down.

What's not yet clear is to what extent attractive deals, discounting or forcing cars onto the market has been responsible for the rise.

"It's partially the case that fleet is an ultra-competitive market," said a spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, the organisation that collates the registration data. "I think September was a bumper month for deals."

Diesel grew quicker than petrol, continuing the long-standing trend. Registrations of oil-burners rose 4.7% on September 2005 and took 45.8% of the market, compared with a year-to-date figure of 44.6%.

As has been the case for many months now, it's the premium brands that recorded biggest growth. VW, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz all showed registrations up at least 20% year-on-year, with Audi's figure up 40.5% thanks to good growth in A3, A4 and A6 sales.

Fiat's recovery continued on the back of the impressive new Punto, recording 3349 registrations, up 65.5% on last September.

Despite the upturn, predictions for the rest of the 2006 aren't so rosy, with a year-end forecast slightly down on 2005.