September new car sales in the UK, boosted by the new new '57' plate identifier issued on the first of the month, rose 1.3% to 419,920 units.

Despite concerns over consumer confidence due to the banking sector's difficulties, demand for new cars rose in September although a modest decline to 405,000 units had been expected in this key 'plate change' month, but volumes were actually the best since 2004 - when the market went on to record a full year total of 2.567mn units.

Demand was up across all sales types and the overall September volume was 1.1% or 4,591 units above the 1999-2006 average of 414,699 for the month.

"September has traditionally been the strongest month for registrations after March - and this year it has exceeded expectations with 419,290 new cars motoring out of showrooms," said SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan.

Year-to-date registrations were up 2% to 1,940,515 units or 38.627 units.

Registrations in the third quarter also rose 2% - better than the predicted modest decline of 0.7%. With the 12 month rolling total already at 2.383m units, the final year-end figure now looks likely to surpass the 2.355m unit forecast set in July. The forecast will be reviewed later this month.

The economy remains robust, unemployment levels are low and there is a hint that interest rates may have settled or even fall.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles year-to-date registrations jumped 82.1%, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

"'With climate change issues at the forefront of everyone's agenda, it is encouraging to note the rise in uptake of low-carbon vehicles. Motorists are increasingly playing their part in tackling environmental impact."

Every sales type category posted growth in September. Private demand was up 1.5%, as market share modestly grew from 46.4% to 46.5%. Private volumes over the year-to-date have improved by 7,983 units. Most commentators had thought that any signs of weakness in the market would first appear in the private sector.

Fleet/business demand rose by 1.1% in the month and was up 2.9%, or 30,644 units, over the year-to-date figure.

For the second year in a row the Ford Fiesta was the top seller in September. The Ford Focus was number one over the first nine months of the year, outselling the second placed Astra by 13,001 units or 14.3%. However, the Focus did slip to third in September - its first time outside the top two since April 2000.
Mini entered the top 10 for the month, registering a record 8,764 units in September.

September diesel registrations rose 6.7% to 167,031 units. Diesel-powered cars saw their market share rise by two full percentage points in September, to a new high for the month. Diesel registrations rose for a seventh successive month in September and were up by 46,937 units over the first three quarters of the year.
The Ford Focus is the best selling diesel model year-to-date, but has been kept off the top slot in each of the past four months. The Ford Mondeo took top honours in September.

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