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UK: New car sales up 12.1% in October

By Dave Leggett | 6 November 2012

The UK new car market continued to buck the trend in Europe as a whole in October as it posted growth of 12.1% on last year. 

UK new car registrations rose 12.1% to 151,252 units in October and the UK new car market has increased 5% over the year-to-date to 1,771,861 units. 

The SMMT has revised up its car market forecast for the full year to 2.013m units, from 1.94m in 2011. 

"Despite uncertainty in the European economy, the UK new car market continues to grow, with registrations rising more than 12% in October to 151,252 units," said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive. 

"It is encouraging to see the alternatively-fuelled vehicle market performing strongly, up 13% so far this year. Although the alternatively-fuelled vehicle sector represents only a small share of the overall market, it is vital that government sustains its consumer incentive programme and maximises the benefits available through the vehicle taxation system."  

The UK new car market has increased in every month this year, apart from February, which is traditionally a low-volume month.

However, the SMMT pointed out that the year-to-date performance is still some 16% or 335,000 units below the 2007, pre-recession volume.

The growth in 2012 reflects an improvement in private demand, while fleet demand has sustained the volumes recovered in 2011.

SMMT also said that the demand for small cars has risen rapidly, in part due to new models. The Mini segment has grown by 52.0% over the year-to-date and the Supermini segment by 5.8% or over 35,000 units. Collectively these two segments account for close to 40% of the market. 

The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling new car in October (8,058 units sold) and the year-to-date (96,805 units sold).

In October, SMMT revised up its full year 2012 forecast to 2.013m units from 1.97m forecast in July and 1.92m at the start of the year. The UK car market is forecast to be stable in 2013 at 2.015m units.

A note of caution was sounded by David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at Deloitte UK, who suggested that the UK figures are being inflated by dealer 'pre-registrations'.

“The UK figures include substantial numbers of both pre-registrations and manufacturer early registrations, which are not sustainable in the longer term,” he said. “Stripping these out would show a very different picture in the UK.”

Raistrick also warned that the UK car market may be due a decline next year. “Whilst the vehicle registrations for the next couple of months are fairly cast in stone, there is now a real risk that the UK could head in a similar direction to every other major European market during 2013.”