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UK car sales for the first five months of 2003 were down 2.9% year on year to 1,107,311 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Putting its usual upbeat spin on the result, the SMMT said: “Volumes have gently dipped from 2002’s record levels, but the market remains firm and is above expectations, considering increased economic uncertainties.”

The new car market in May was down 4.1% to 200,059 units.

Over the first five months of 2003 private registrations took 50% of the market while company car demand fell 4.4% in May, to 41.6%.

The SMMT said its full year forecast of 2.45 million units should be comfortably achieved, even though volumes are expected to moderate further in the second half of the year.

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“With the registrations over the past 12 months at 2.53 million units the market has remained stronger than expected,” the trade group added.