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SMMT holds 2.25m forecast

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is sticking to its forecast 2.25m total of new car registrations for the year despite April's 7% year-on-year increase. Even so, the strong growth through the first four months keeps the 2001 total on track for the second best on record.

If the UK achieved 2.25m it would be the best year for registrations since the 1989 record of 2,300,944. Retail sales led April's surge as they did the previous month. They were up 18% to take 48.3% of the total market – a year earlier, they took 42.2%. Registrations of imported cars rose to their highest level at 77.3%.

This is the seventh month of growth in the new car market, bucking the trend in the rest of Europe where sales fell by an average of 4.9% in the first quarter.

Alan Pulham, National Franchised Dealers Association director, said new car sales to private buyers were up 19.4% this year. This “stable rate of recovery” would only be sustainable if manufacturers retained franchised dealer networks as the principal outlets through which cars are sold, he said.

Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, said some people had called for an end to manufacturers' dealer networks. But seven consecutive months of growth showed car buyers had confidence in their local dealerships.

Total registrations for April were 179,996, taking sales for the first four months of the year to 855,079, up 3.2% over the first third of last year. It was the fourth highest April on record.

Sales to business customers were up 9.7% at 14,954 units while fleet demand dipped 3.4% to 78,136 units.

Following the trend set in March, carmakers with a strong retail base again did well in April.

Alfa Romeo sales were up 133% at 1,277 while Citroen sales also soared, up 122% to 8,055. There were strong performances from Seat (up 134% at 2,226), Chrysler Jeep (up 74%) and Suzuki, up 58%.

{*April 2001*}

Ford Motor Company opened up a clear lead with 37,290 units if the sales of all its subsidiaries are included. Land Rover had a strong month, off-setting poorer performances by Jaguar and Volvo and a dismal month for Mazda, down 71% with 455 registrations.

Adding the sales of Fiat Auto and Saab to those of Vauxhall, Cadillac and Chevrolet gives General Motors a month total of 29,199, ahead of the Volkswagen Group's 24,145.

All four VW brands had an exceptionally good April, with Skoda and Seat benefiting from the strength of the retail market in particular.

Renault, third as an individual brand in April, is fourth in this table with 23,831 sales when Nissan's contribution is added.

And PSA Peugeot Citroen is fifth with combined sales of 23,225.

It is then a long drop to sixth-placed DaimlerChrysler which recorded 10,292 monthly sales, including Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Kia.

In the individual model charts, new Mondeo is beginning to make its mark, taking second place behind the Focus, which has now headed the best-seller list for the 12th month in succession.

{*MD May 2001*}

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