UK new car sales rose for the second time in the past year in October, by 2.6%, according to data released by the SMMT.

The 2.6% year-on-year growth saw the car market up 3,449 units to 134,944 units. This was almost 7% and nearly 9,000 units ahead of SMMT’s forecast for the month, but volumes remain almost 20% off the level recorded in 2007, prior to recession.

Registrations in the last three months have increased by 0.9% versus 2010, whilst over the last six months they were down 1.5%. This period of relative stability follows a weak start to the year that has left car sales over the year-to-date down 4.5% to 1,688,038 units.
 
Registrations in October were buoyed by a sharp recovery in the small car markets, with the Supermini segment up 17.4% and the Mini segment up 4.7%.
 
The Ford Fiesta was the best selling model in both October and over the year-to-date.
 
The VW Golf was the best selling diesel model in October. Demand for diesel and alternatively fuelled cars was stable during the month, whilst petrol cars – helped by growth in small car segments – picked up, SMMT said.
 
SMMT’s sales type data showed the fleet market grew in the month, whilst the fall in private volumes was less pronounced than in previous months.
 
The market remains on track to achieve SMMT’s full year forecast of 1.923m units. The SMMT says that the market is expected to be stable in 2012, at 1.96m units.

However, consumer confidence remains fragile and forecasts for UK GDP growth have been revised down recently.
 
“October’s new car market rose 2.6% on last year – a positive result despite the uncertain economic climate,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive.

“Vehicle manufacturers and their dealer networks are working hard to offer consumers value for money through improved fuel efficiency, low running costs and innovative finance. We expect market conditions to remain challenging and hope the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement later this month [due November 29] will help to boost economic growth and consumer confidence.”