AM Online

2001 sales prediction edges closer to highest ever total

Strong sales have finally forced the SMMT to revise its forecast for the year to 2.3m units – up 50,000 on its original 2.25m prediction and close to the highest ever total of 2,300,944 in 1989.

The decision to improve the forecast- a 3.5% increase on last year's 2,2221,647 units – follows the tenth consecutive month of growth in the new car market.

Sales in July were 173,160, an increase of 11.6% over the corresponding month last year with private buyers accounting for more than one in five (20.8%). In the first seven months of the year, private sales have increased by 19.1% to 699,380 units.

Analysts expected July to be a quieter month in the run-up to the new registration system in September. But sales were a record, as was June, boosting the annual running total to 2.29m. This has prompted the SMMT's optimism with the expectation of at least 400,000 sales in September.

Sales for the remaining three months of the year are expected to cool following a record last quarter in 2000 after the industry addressed the 'rip-off Britain' campaign by cutting prices.

The SMMT's forecast for 2002 is 2.225 million, a drop of 3.3%.

Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, said: “What these figures tell us is that confidence is king when it comes to buying a new car. And clearly 10 months of growth in the new car market speaks volumes.”

Fleet demand is down 3.9% for the year at 614,169, reflecting a degree of uncertainty over the benefit in kind tax changes for company cars due to come into force next year.

Diesel sales continue to grow with demanding rising by 24.2% to 235,740 units over the first seven months of the year, compared to 189,821 in 2000.

Strong demand for small cars is also reflected in the top 10 model registrations. The Ford Focus headed the best sellers' table for the 15th consecutive month with Peugeot's UK-built 206 in second place.

With strong sales from Citroen, up 58% for the year, PSA Group has a commanding second place in the overall sales table ahead of Vauxhall and the VW Group brands.

Alfa Romeo has maintained its momentum with sales running 82% up on the year. Big losers include Daewoo, down 50%, and Mazda, down 49%. Both companies will be looking to make big gains: Daewoo as it appoints a franchised dealer network, and Mazda which has announced price cuts after taking control of UK distribution.

Although MG Rover sales are down 22% on the year, the company will take some encouragement from a strong July which saw sales rise nearly 30% to 6,971 units.

Jaguar sales were also buoyant at 2,138 – an increase of 89% – following the launch of X-type.

Despite these strong domestic showings, registrations of imported cars rose 19% to account for 76.5% of the market.

{*July 2001*}

{*Year to date (July 2001)*}

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