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SMMT gives autumn warning

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is warning dealers to brace themselves for an erratic end to the year after sales in May rose for the eighth consecutive month. Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, believes demand patterns may be affected by the introduction of the new registration plate format in September.

“This could cause a peak in September with slightly weaker demand in the final quarter of the year,” he said.

While the SMMT is sticking to its forecast of 2.25m units, Alan Pulham, National Franchised Dealers Association director, said: “There is every likelihood that this year could prove a record for new car sales – exceeding the 2.3m sales seen in 1989.”

{*May 2001*}

Sales in May topped the 2000 total by 2.3% at 198,619 units. Total registrations for the first five months of the year were up 3% to 1,053,703 units.

Private buyers continue to underpin the sales resurgence, with retail registrations up 12.4%, accounting for 46.3% of the market. Total private sales this year are up 18.1% with business sales down 13.4% and fleet sales down by 7.1%.

Citroen again performed strongly. Year-to-date, it has recorded a 64% increase to leapfrog Fiat, Nissan, Toyota and MG Rover.

Only Alfa Romeo is doing better in percentage terms with sales up 83.87% at 6,989 for the year.

Citroen's partner Peugeot had another strong month, taking the PSA group to second slot in the sales chart behind Ford.

Combined monthly sales for the French group are 28,035, ahead of Vauxhall's 25,225. Total for the first five months is 145,647, comfortably ahead of Vauxhall's 130,549. Adding Saab's 7,558 registrations still leaves General Motor's UK operation in third place.

Alain Favey, Citroen UK managing director, said: “In the first five months of 2001 Citroen has clocked up more sales than it did in the whole of 1991. We've proved that we know how to make cars that people want to buy.”

A year after its launch, the Xsara Picasso has established itself as the best selling MPV in the UK, taking more than one in four compact MPV sales.

Mercedes-Benz sales were up 2.6% for the month and 5.7% for the year, despite the current row with its dealer network.

Year-to-date Mercedes-Benz has sold 29,835 cars, beating its 12-month totals from 1974 to 1994.

Dermot Kelly, director of Mercedes-Benz Cars in the UK, put the success down to the breadth of the range, rather than the success of any one model.

“We are continuing to widen the appeal of Mercedes-Benz by expanding our range and launching cars in sectors of the market where Mercedes had previously not had a presence,” he said.

The Ford Focus remains the best-selling car for the 13th consecutive month while Vauxhall's Astra eased ahead of Peugeot's 206 to take second spot.

{*Year to date June 2001*}

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