A modest decline to 405,000 units had been expected in this key 'plate change' month, but volumes were actually the best since 2004 – when the market went on to record a full year total of 2.567 million units, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Total year-to-date registrations up 2% to 1,940,515 units. Diesel registrations rose to 167,031 units in September, up 6.7% on the same month last year.
Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, said: “September has traditionally been the strongest month for registrations after March and this year it has exceeded expectations with 419,290 new cars motoring out of showrooms.”
Every sales type category posted growth in September. Private demand was up 1.5%, as market share modestly grew from 46.4% to 46.5%. Private volumes over the year-to-date improved by 7,983 units. Most commentators had thought that any signs of weakness in the market would first appear in the private sector.
Keith Parry, head of the motor retail group at Barclays Business Banking, said: "Strong figures in such a key month are a boost to the industry, especially given the uncertainty around interest rates and macroeconomic conditions. Volumes remain high thanks to continued private demand but the effects of discounting should not be overlooked.
"Demand for low-carbon vehicles persists with consumers appearing to be ever more conscious of emissions levels. That said, some prestige brands have also had a good month and indeed all sectors have seen sales rise. Whilst low margins can't last forever, dealers at the value end of the market should be used to such conditions.
"Relief at performance in September will, however, give way to anxiety as we head towards the winter months. Dealers will be on the look out for signs that private demand may be starting to slip as they strive to maintain sales through to the end of the year."
Also today, the Bank of England announced that interest rates will stay at 5.75%.