The UK new car market continues to recover with the September plate-change boosting registrations by 12.1% to 403,135 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The September new car registrations figure was the highest monthly total since March 2008. Private registrations rose around 17% in both September and year-to-date.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “With over 400,000 new cars registered for the first time in more than five years, the UK market is reflecting growing economic confidence.
“Robust private demand has played a major role in this growth with customers attracted by exciting, increasingly fuel-efficient new models that offer savings in the cost of ownership.”
September marks the 19th consecutive month of steady growth. However, fleet and business demand is still below pre-recession levels.
Hawes believes the current performance in the new car market to be sustainable with growth continuing next year.
The SMMT puts the growth period down to buyers returning to the market after holding off their purchases.
The Ford Fiesta was the most popular model in September with 20,629 units registered.
Derek McAllan, head of automotive retail KPMG, said: "The UK market powers onwards and upwards driven by improving economic conditions and rising house prices feeding consumer confidence and particularly strong private demand. This will likely continue into 2014 and maybe beyond.
“Having fallen by over 20% during the recession, the UK new car market is in touching distance of pre-recession levels, similar to the US and in stark contrast to the rest of Europe. After an awful August on the continent there is now reason for some cautious optimism in September. The rollercoaster in Spain continues with sales up by 29% following an 18% fall last month. This increase is not a cause for celebration as it is influenced by both government subsidies and last September’s sales being the first month of a 3% tax hike.
“September sales in mainland Europe give rise to some cautious optimism. Sales in Germany were just 1% down which is a significant slowing in the rate of decline and sales in France nudged ahead by 3% albeit this was influenced by the French courts relaxing their ban on certain Mercedes models. Sales in Italy were down 3% and it is likely that these sales were boosted by buyers seeking to avoid a VAT increase ; so more bad news from Italy is likely next month .
“Overall the European car market remains hard to call. The arrest in decline in Germany is genuinely good news. In other markets a combination of local factors is making figures look good (or less bad in the case of Italy) but probably unsustainable.”
Sue Robinson, director of National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: "It is positive to see that the new car market has continued to remain strong during September and the successful plate change reflects growing economic confidence.
“It brings great news that the 63-plate change this month is the best performing month since March 2008. The market remains significantly high with increased footfall and interest from consumers which show that the sector is stable and growing.
“Strong finance packages which allow consumers to budget for monthly payments and dealership incentives have fuelled demand and customers are continuing to opt for smaller, fuel efficient models. We are encouraged that the growth and stability of the market shown by the latest plate change will continue into 2014”.
Paul Philpott, president and chief executive of Kia Motors (UK), said: “Throughout 2013 our dealer network has been building on the momentum established over the last few years and now both they and we are really seeing the results of all that hard work.
“September has shown just what potential we have for continued growth in the marketplace and to deliver profitable growth for our dealers.”
Kia’s top-five sellers in September were Sportage followed by the new Cee’d family, the Picanto city car, Rio and Venga.
Sportage is also Kia’s best-selling car for the year to date with sales totalling 16,468 followed again by the Cee’d family at 11,611 and Picanto at 11,109.
Audi UK registered 25,829 units in September.
Paul Sansom, Audi in the UK head of sales, said: "Audi UK has achieved an all-time record for its new car sales in September, with literally thousands more cars reaching our customers than at this time last year.
"The scale of demand for Audi in the UK has never been stronger or more consistent, and despite these record sales numbers our future customer order bank is also at an all-time high. As our brand appeal mounts, our product range expands still further, and our levels of customer service continue to improve, we confidently expect this upward sales consistency and pace to continue on this trajectory here in the UK."
Lance Bradley, Mitsubishi Motors in the UK’s managing director, said: “2013 has been an exceptionally good year for us, it’s clear to see we have made significant progress throughout this year with sales up by 47%.
"New products have certainly helped us, as have the price reductions we’ve just announced. There really has never been a better time to buy a Mitsubishi.”