LONDON -- UK new-car registrations rose 1.4 percent last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said today, with an increase in businesses buying fleet cars offsetting a slump in demand among individual consumers for the seventh month in a row.
Sales rose to 180,168 vehicles in October, the SMMT said in a statement.
Fleet sales were up 4.2 percent last month, but as many of the company registrations will have come from purchasing decisions made before the referendum on leaving the European Union, it is hard to assess the long-term effect of the Brexit vote on the biggest proportion of the market.
Sales to private buyers, which dropped 1.1 percent in October, have fallen in every month since April, suggesting that the uncertainty created by the decision to leave the EU may have hit sentiment among consumers in Europe's second-biggest car market.
Howard Archer, an economist with IHS Global Insight, said that demand could be hit due to a squeeze on disposable income caused by the fall in the value of British pound pushing up the price of imported goods.
"It looks inevitable that consumers' purchasing power will progressively weaken over the coming months ... which will dilute consumers' ability and likely willingness to splash out on big ticket items like cars," he said.
Ford Motor, the UK's market leader, saw its monthly sales fall by 3 percent while registrations at No. 2 Vauxhall declined by 5.9 percent.
Volume at Volkswagen Group was largely positive as VW brand sales rose 0.3 percent, Seat's volume leapt 51 percent, buoyed by the success of the marque's first SUV, the Ateca. Skoda sales rose 10 percent, while registrations at VW Group premium brand Audi were up 11 percent. In contrast, sales at Porsche fell 19 percent last month.
• Download Excel file, above right, for UK sales.
In the first 10 months, registrations were up by 2.5 percent at 2.33 million.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report