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New car registrations pass 2012 total with one month to go

The day the November new car registration figures were announced coincided with a General Motors bombshell – it will pull its Chevrolet brand out of Europe in two years’ time.

A look at the SMMT figures suggests the rationale behind the decision. New car registrations rose 7% in November to 159,581 units, the month’s best performance since 2004. Yet Chevrolet went backwards by 23.2% in the same month and had fallen 13.5% in the year to November while the total market grew almost 10% to 2,111,819 cars. With the December registrations still to come, dealers and manufacturers have already pushed past the 2012 full-year total of 2,044,609.

Lotus tops the risers’ chart with 56.9% YTD growth thanks to 24 registrations, up from one in November 2012. It recently launched its fastest-ever soft-top, the Exige Roadster, and is promoting 1% APR 48-month lease offers and a 0% APR 50/50 deal that lets the buyer pay half now and the rest in two years.
Contrast that with Infiniti, which lost 25% of its already low volume last year. It is pinning its hopes on new, higher volume models: the Q50 executive saloon and the Q30 premium hatchback due in 2015.

Contrast Chevrolet’s performance with that of another value-positioned sub-brand, Dacia. Dacia, slotted into Renault dealerships at the end of last year, has already overtaken its South Korean-built rival, which has been in the market for eight years.

Still, Chevrolet’s dull performance cannot take the shine off a remarkable new car market in 2013. The SMMT said the car market is on target to hit its revised forecast of 2.25 million registrations for 2013, some 200,000 more than the figure forecast at the start of the year.

Private registrations have risen 15.4% from January to November, while fleet units increased by 4.3% and the business sector saw 16.8% growth.

“Motorists have bought more than two million cars so far in 2013, a tremendous success for the industry on the back of buoyant consumer confidence and innovative new products,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.

“With the UK economy looking increasingly positive, we can expect strong underlying demand for new cars to continue into 2014, with volumes set to match or surpass those seen this year.”

At the National Franchised Dealers Association, director Sue Robinson said: “It is extremely encouraging to see that the new car market continued on its upward trend.”

“Competitive pricing and strong incentives have driven new car sales in 2013. Dealers have reported increased footfall in showrooms throughout the year and this continued into November.

“The NFDA expects the market to remain strong into the New Year as consumer confidence continues to grow as the UK economy continues to recover.”

Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “The 21st consecutive monthly increase in new car registrations underlines the continuing strength of the UK market, despite some expectations that November’s sales would slow down as we enter the winter months.

“Some stabilisation in the coming months would be welcome in order to prevent the market from overheating. Looking forward to 2014, we should expect to see a slower rate of growth in the UK, while our key European neighbours start to play catch-up.”

The risers

Fiat pulled out all the stops in November to achieve a 53.25% increase to 4,455 registrations, 1,548 extra units on its November 2012 achievement.

It was matched for percentage growth, but not for volume, by Mazda, which took 1,980 registrations and expects volumes to climb further once the new Mazda3 launches in January.  

Nevertheless, both were beaten by Suzuki, which has made the most of its competitively priced small cars in 2013 and which grew its November registrations by 58.1% or 831 cars.

More modest, but still notable, is the November achievement of MG and its expanding dealer network. Its 75 registrations, up 257% year-on-year, is a testament to the recent launch of its MG3 hatchback, which has been advertised on TV and in the press as a great value runabout.

Looking at the volume brands, Ford and Volkswagen had a flat November while Vauxhall pushed on to report 7.7% growth and 1,407 incremental registrations.

Nissan continues to break its own records, as does Škoda, with the former’s 8,040 units last month contributing to a 110,927 total to date, and the latter reaching 60,795 registrations after a 5,578-unit November.


The fallers

A total of 16 brands registered fewer cars last month than they did in November 2012. The worst results were for Proton, which had zero registrations, and Perodua, which had just three.

Japanese premium brand Infiniti continues to be unsustainable as a standalone franchise, with its 20 new cars registered in November a 63.6% fall.

Toyota had 1,534 fewer registrations year-on-year last month, a 24.2% decline, but at least is in growth over the year to date.

Mini too saw a 15.1% drop to 3,754 cars, coinciding with its unveiling of the next-generation Mini hatchback that goes on sale in 2014.

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