NEW CAR registrations in September dropped 8.8% according to the latest SMMT figures. Registrations in the month totaled 353,494. This figures includes 187,791 private vehicles(down 1.9%), 134, 478 fleet cars (down 13.8%) and 31,225 business vehicles (down 21.1%).

Registrations for the first 9-months of the year now stand at 1,797,755. That's a 1.2% drop over last year's levels, but the Society says it is still expecting to reach 2.223m units by the year end.

Although private sales were down, the plate change caused the private sector registrations to increase its share of the new car market by 4% to 53%. The SMMT comments that 'supply problems' for several manufacturers caused disruption in actually transporting cars to customers.

The Ford Focus held its position at the top of the best-sellers list and the Peugeot 206 climbed to third place in September. The BMW 3 series made a rare appearance. Superminies, however, dominated the list, reflecting the strength of the private buyer.

Top 10 registrations Sept 2000

1. Focus 17,740

2. Corsa 16,144

3. 206 15,813

4. Fiesta 15,136

5. Mondeo 12,748

6. Astra 12,098

7. 3-Series 10,436

8. Ka 9.066

9. Vectra 8,913

10. Golf 8,647

Diesel penetration increased for the fifth month in succession in September; that's the seventh time this year. Diesel registrations over the year have risen by 1%. And it could rise further, comments the SMMT, as fuel economy becomes increasingly important. The government's reform to VED next March could affect this.