New UK registration plate identifier system is expected to boost September sales to 400,000

New car registrations in the United Kingdom last month totalled 77,246 units, a rise of 6.2 per cent over August 2000. To the end of August 2001, new car registrations totalled 1,519,435 units, a 5.2 per cent increase on the same period in 2000.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that August was the 11th consecutive month of growth in the new car market and has forecast over 400,000 registrations for September. A new registration plate numbering system was introduced in the UK on September 1, with two numbers replacing the previous letter prefix vehicle age identifier, and this is widely expected to boost new car sales this month.

"We expect the sales boom to continue in September. Total registrations will top 400,000 units and although demand is likely to ease in the final quarter, 2001 may yet be a record year," said SMMT Chief Executive Christopher Macgowan.

The SMMT's full year forecast for new car registrations is now 2.3 million units. In 1989, registrations reached a record 2,300,944. Sales to private buyers rose 12.5 per cent last month and were up 18.7 per cent for the year to date compared with the same period in 2000. To the end of August, 731,159 cars had been sold to private buyers compared to 615,927 in the same period of 2000.

Fleet and business registrations also rose in August by 2.1 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively. August sales of UK-produced cars declined 12.5 per cent to 15,144, for a 19.6 per cent share of the total new car market, compared with 17,301 (23.8 per cent share) a year ago.

For the year to the end of August, 369,671 locally-built cars were sold in the UK, a drop of 11.1 per cent for a 24.3 per cent market share. This compares with 415,875 and 28.8 per cent for the first eight months of 2000. This diminishing share is likely to fall further in the next few months as UK production of the Vauxhall (Opel) Vectra and Ford Fiesta is transferred to German factories.

Ford's Focus was the top selling car in the UK to the end of August with 87,464 sales, followed by the Vauxhall Astra (63,215), Peugeot 206 (62,790), Ford Fiesta (59,400), Ford Mondeo (57,898), Vauxhall Corsa (55,888), Renault Megane (48,102), Renault Clio (46,410), VW Golf (41,861) and Citroen Zsara (41,709).

Diesel car sales have soared in the UK this year. With 23.9 per cent growth for the first eight months, diesel registrations have risen by 16.4 per cent, almost five times the overall market, to 249,883 units, the highest since 1997. The SMMT says that diesel car demand has been rising since excise duty rates on the fuel were cut in March 2000. The importance of CO2 data in motoring taxes, particularly company car tax, where diesels have a superior performance comparative to petrol cars, has also boosted sales.