New car registrations fell by 4.2% in November down to 134,027 units, but were 5,000 units above forecast in what is usually a slow month.
According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders diesel and alternatively fuelled cars took record market shares in November.
Year to date sales are down 4.5% on a year ago. While fleet volumes were up 7.5% year to date, private registrations were down 15.7% year to date.
The SMMT also believes the new car market in 2011 will better the forecast of 1.923 million units, but remains cautious about 2012.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: “While the November saw a 4.2% dip, the fuel efficiency of new models broke all records with the average new car achieving 52.5mpg.
“Despite the Chancellor delaying the 3p rise in fuel duty, our cost of fuel is still among the highest in Europe, so customers are sure to welcome the 29.3% improvement in new car fuel efficiency over the last 10 years, a demonstration of industry’s commitment to delivering good value to motorists.”
New car registrations were just 0.9% lower than a year ago in the last three months, and volumes
over the past six months were also only down a modest 1.8%. However, the market continues to trend some 20% below pre-recession levels.
Market stability in recent months is at odds with growing concerns over the economic setting. While the Autumn Statement announced some welcome measures to stimulate growth, the latest forecasts for the UK economy and concerns over the Eurozone are unsettling.
Sue Robinson, director of the RMI National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: “The decline in the retail market highlights the current lack of consumer confidence.
“While the economy remains fragile and the European debt crisis continues to affect stability, consumer confidence remains very low. Many consumers are finding their finances very constrained due to inflationary pressure on house hold bills.
“Those who do have money to spare are putting off larger purchases until there are signs that the economy is starting on a road to recovery.”
Robinson believes the strong fleet market in previous months has ensured the new car market has remained stable. However, the RMI predicts new fleet registrations will begin to fall and that trend will continue in 2012 as businesses have caught up with their change cycle, having delayed purchasing during 2009 and 2010.
Robins said: “The NFDA 2012 forecast for the new car market, in conjunction with Deloitte, suggests that the total number of new car registrations for next year will be in the region of 1.84 million.”