The SMMT has reported that August new car sales in the UK rose for the first time in 13 months, though the rise is against an exceptionally low base last year.

The car market in August was up by 7.3% on last year to 59,346 units.

However, the comparison is against an exceptionally low base last year when the market was in the throes of immediate post-scrappage slump. In fact, the August 2010 market was the lowest on record and August 2011 was still more than 20% below the 1999-2010 average for the month.

The SMMT acknowledged that the outlook remains challenging, with the UK car market this year expected to post a 5% decline 2010. New car sales from January to August were 6.1% down on the same period a year ago. 

“August represents a relatively small share of the new car market and the September new 61-plate registrations will be far more important for vehicle manufacturers and franchised dealers,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive.

“The September new car market is always important for the UK motor industry, accounting for around 17% of the full year’s registrations. Consumers are nervous about the future, but with industry offering unprecedented improvements in fuel economy, competitive finance offers and a wide variety of new models, buyers will find there is something to suit every taste and pocket.”

In contrast with the position in years gone by when the August market was by far the biggest in the UK retail calendar (with an annual registration plate 'year identifier' changeover coinciding with industry promotions) it is expected to be the smallest volume monthly new car market in 2011. In 2010 it accounted for just 2.7% of the annual car market. The new 61 number plate was launched on 1 September.

SMMT forecasts the full-year 2011 car market to end on 1.93m units, a 5% decline on the 2010 market and down from the current 1.95m running rate.

The growth in August reflected recovery within the private sector, which grew 10.7% in August, the first rise since June 2010. The fleet market continued to grow in August and is up by 3.3% over the first eight months of the year. 

The Ford Fiesta was the best selling model in the overall new car market in both August and the year-to-date.