The SMMT has said that the car market in the UK in September saw 332,476 new cars registered, just 0.8% down on last year's level, a result that it said 'outperformed expectations'.

However, growth in fleet volumes supported the market while private registrations were down 9.3%.

SMMT expects the full year new car market to end 5.3% below 2010 levels at 1.92m units.

“The all-important September market [when there is a registration plate change] outperformed expectations and is less than 1% below last year at 332,476 units,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive.

“We expected 2011 to be a challenging year and we are on track for a full year total of around 1.92 million new car registrations, 5% below 2010. SMMT has revised down its 2012 registrations forecast to 1.96 million units; a reflection of the continued weakness in UK domestic demand and the uncertainty across European economies. It is important government acts to sustain an investment-led recovery and implements measures to encourage more private sector investment in R&D, skills, new plants and machinery."

Commenting on the September results, David Raistrick, UK Manufacturing Leader at Deloitte, said:

“The immaterial decrease in new car sales for September 2011 confirms our predictions over the last few months that private and corporate buyers have reached a ‘tipping point’ where they can no longer hold off buying new cars. There was a sizeable fall in new car sales during the last two number plate registration cycles (March ’11 and Sep ’10), with a number of these buyers delaying and now making a purchase in September. Undoubtedly, economic uncertainty is putting off some purchasers and levelling sales.

“However, today’s figures indicate an overall shift from retention to replacement, with buyers having previously deferred purchases and now feeling they can delay no further. Overall this has lead to broadly flat growth. I would expect cautious relief that the numbers have been generally retained at last year’s levels.

 “September is regarded as a critical month for the industry, accounting for around a fifth of the full year’s registrations and this year we’ve seen 332,476 new cars being registered. Numbers in the corporate sector have been steady, with several favourable factors contributing to an increase in sales. Today’s news helps confirm that new car registrations remain likely to reach around the 1.9 million mark at the end of December.”