New car registrations saw steady growth in July, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
A total of 178,420 cars were registered – an uplift of 3.2% on the same month last year – while registrations in 2015 so far have risen 6.5% to surpass 1.5 million.
Private registrations in July were up 1%, fleet 6.4% and business registrations down 12.2%.
For the year-to-date private registrations are up 2%, fleet 12.3% and business down 6.2%.
July marked the 41st consecutive month of increases thanks to “prevailing economic confidence combined with low interest rates and attractive finance deals”, said the SMMT.
“While the first six months of 2015 represented an all-time record high for registrations, the more modest increase in July is suggestive of a more stable second half of the year as demand levels.”
The top-selling segments so far this year have been supermini, lower medium (small family cars) and dual purpose (SUVs and crossovers).
“Volume growth in all three segments reflects a shift in buying habits over the past decade, with the supermini and dual purpose segments enjoying the biggest gains.”
Demand for superminis has grown 22.7% since 2005 – a result of consumers downsizing to smaller cars that offer significantly improved refinement, comfort and specification than their equivalents a decade ago.
The market for dual purpose vehicles, meanwhile, has seen an 88.5% leap over the past decade as manufacturers have introduced new models to cater for buyers seeking more versatility.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "While more moderate than in recent months, July’s rise in new car registrations is good news, and indicative of what we expect for the remainder of 2015. With demand having reached a record high in the first half of the year, we anticipate more stable growth in the coming months."
“It is positive to see the new car market has now achieved 41 consecutive months of growth – increasing 3.2% in July,” said Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA).
"It is encouraging to see that vehicles are still being sold and consumers are taking advantage of strong finance deals and competitive offers.
“The market is appearing to be levelling off as the cycle now matures, however, there continues to be speculation that registration figures may not reflect the real number of cars actually being sold.”
Richard Jones, Black Horse managing director, said: “The UK automotive industry continues its success story with this month’s results demonstrating continuing growth albeit at a more modest level than prior months.
“Clearly the finance deals offered by manufacturers and dealers continue to attract consumers keen to buy the latest model cars and with continued low interest rates this is likely to continue.
“However, the market is expected to grow at a slower rate in the second half of the year, albeit the September data should show strong registration levels due to the plate change.
In Scotland, new car registrations went down in July, by 5.81%, compared to the same month in 2014. Year-to-date though the total is 0.99% up.
Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: "The volatile nature of monthly variations in these numbers can often create reactions both positive (when numbers increase) and negative (on occasions when they decrease) what has to be factored into the thinking is that these are registration figures and don't reflect the delay between ordering (sales) and delivery (registration) of products."
New car registrations by segment, 2005 vs 2015 (January to July totals)
New car registrations - rolling year totals, December 2007 to present
Year-on-year and year-to-date sales breakdown