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SMMT forecasts record year for new car market despite April dip

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is confident of a fourth consecutive record year for the new car market, despite a 3.8% dip in new car registrations in April.

Following record March registrations, the new car market eased in April. Volumes were 7,308 units, or 3.8%, below the 2003 level. However, registrations over the year-to-date remained positive, up 3.9% or 35,758 units from January to April.

SMMT forecasts have been revised upwards as a result of the strong year-to-date growth from 2.5 million to 2.6 million units.

“In the context of the year-to-date, the market is still significantly up on last year. A strong underlying economy, raft of new model launches and intense competition should see total registrations hit 2.6 million units by the end of the year,” says chief executive Christopher Macgowan.

Private registrations rose 2.1% with an increase of 9,497 units over the year-to-date. However, following a 6.8% increase in March, April volumes slipped 8.9%.

Business volumes continued to rise in April, maintaining the growth seen in 2004 so far. They were up for the 11th successive month, with a 10.6% rise. Fleet volumes dipped 0.6 per cent in the month, but were up 3.1% over the year-to-date.

A total of 34,584 UK-built new cars were registered in April 2004. This represented 18.5% of the market, slightly up on the 18.1% for April 2003.

The Ford Focus was the UK's best seller again in April, outselling the second placed Fiesta by 64%. The Volkswagen Golf was the top selling diesel model in April, the first time since May 2003. The Ford Focus is the best selling diesel so far in 2004.

The strongest growth in April was in sports car, MPV and dual purpose 4x4 segments. All segments have seen growth over the year-to-date, except the executive car segment.

Diesel cars made up 32.5% of all registrations in April, up 6.3% over April 2003. Volumes rose by 9,789 units in the month, to 60,692 units. Diesel demand posted its 43rd successive monthly rise with volumes 22.2% up over the year-to-date to 289,532 units. Market penetration is expected to rise to 32% in 2004 and 34% in 2005.

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