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NFDA predicts 2.25m market

The switch to a twin plate change seems to be paying off, despite a shaky start to the year, after June registrations leapt 15.7% on last year.

Falling new car prices, low interest rates and attractive, high specification models are attracting retail customers back into showrooms in increasing numbers.

Dealers report sustained interest in new car sales through the early summer, at a time when customers would traditionally begin to fade away before the August boom.

Hard evidence comes from the official Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' June registration figures, up 15.7% to 196,442 from 169,789 for the same month last year. For the past three months the sales variation has been less than 11% (April 183,047; May 175,898).

The better-than-expected figures led Alan Pulham, National Franchised Dealers Association director, to predict a 2.25m market, which would make it bigger than last year and close to 1989's record 2.30m units. New car registrations for the year-to-date are 1,191,329, up 4.8% on the first six months of last year which totalled 1,136,891.

Ford Focus jumped back to the top of the best seller list in June with strong sales in high specification, five-door Ghia models. Fiesta took second place but the relative lack of fleet sales is behind Mondeo's drop to fifth. Mondeo trails Corsa and Astra, despite high profile TV ads for the Zetec range.

Booming sales for Volkswagen, up 29,596 units or 52% so far this year, accounted for much of the month's increase on last year. Its sales more than compensated for the huge loss at Rover, down 29,097.

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