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2001 sales rival 1989 total

This could be a record year for UK new car registrations if predictions of more than 400,000 sales in September come true.

New car registrations rose by 6.2% in August to 77,246, the 11th consecutive month of growth.

Christopher Macgowan, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive, said: “We expect the sales boom to continue this month. Although demand is likely to ease in the final quarter, 2001 may yet be a record year.”

Total registrations for the year so far are up 5.2% at 1,519,435 units and last month retail buyers again fed the boom. Private sales rose in August by 12.5% and are up 18.7% on the year to date. Fleets sales were up 2.1% and business sales 2.9% higher.

Indications are that the first few days of September were extremely good with sales at least 8% ahead of last year. If that early trend continues, a record year is achievable, with sales needing to top the 2,300,944 registrations achieved in 1989.

August, once the peak sales month, now accounts for only 3% of the annual total with September expected to take about 18%, boosted this time by the switch to new-style registration plates.

But there is bad news for UK manufacturers. Registrations of UK-built cars declined in August and were 11.1% down over the year to date.

The Coventry-built Peugeot 206 slipped to eighth place in the top 10 for the month while Fiesta, on its run out, was down to seventh. The Vauxhall Vectra disappeared from the top 10.

Imports, which have risen by 11.8% over the course of 2001, reached a record high with sales up by 12.1% in August to take an 80.4% market share.

Diesel car sales rose by 23.9% in the first eight months of the year to 249,883 units. This represents a market share of 16.4% which is the highest since 1997.

Improved diesels and the importance of CO2 emissions in motoring taxes, particularly for company cars, has fuelled this increase, says the SMMT. BMW, for example, reports that demand for its diesels far outweighs supply.

There is some cheer for Vauxhall with Corsa and Astra in second and third place behind Focus and ahead of Megane for the month.

But PSA Peugeot Citroen, with sales of 11,038 in August, is snapping at the heels of Vauxhall which sold 11,168.

Big winners so far this year are Alfa Romeo, with sales up 77% over last year, Citroen (up 59.5%) and Seat (up 30.3%.). Strong performances continue from Audi, Skoda and Suzuki, each up more than 20%.

Losers continue to be Daewoo, down 50.9%, Mazda down 50.1% and MG Rover, down 21.34% although staging something of a comeback in August with sales up 8% over August last year.

{*August 2001*}

{*Year to date (aug)*}

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