LONDON -- UK new-car registrations rose by 2.9 percent to 184,101 in November, putting the market on course for record sales in 2016, although demand from retail customers fell for the eighth month in a row and the market is expected to drop by 5 percent next year.
Strong demand from businesses compensated a fall in sales to individual buyers, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said today. Fleet sales rose 24 percent while sales to private buyers fell 1.2 percent.
Through November, overall volume rose 2.5 percent to 2.51 million, the first time the industry has sold more than 2.5 million vehicles in the first eleven months of the year. The UK market is on course to beat the 2.63 million passenger vehicles sold last year, despite uncertainty created by the country's decision to leave the European Union.
Low interest rates and cheap finance packages - accounting for around three quarters of sales - have spurred demand in Europe's second-biggest car market after Germany in recent years.
Sales dipped for only the second time in over four years in June, the month of the Brexit vote, before gradually recovering. This month, just under 120,000 cars would need to be sold for the industry to hit a new high. Last December, there were 180,077 new car registrations.
"The overall growth in what is usually a quiet month is extremely positive and annual figures are still projected to reach over 2.67 million of units," said Sue Robinson, the Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association.
The SMMT forecasts that UK sales will fall by 5 percent to 2.54 million next year from a forecast 2.68 million this year.
BMW passes VW
Ford remains the UK's top-selling brand, followed by General Motors' Vauxhall while BMW passed Volkswagen brand to claim the No. 3 spot.
Ford's sales rose 1.6 percent to 21,944 while Vauxhall's plunged 24 percent to 15,976. BMW brand sales jumped 28 percent to 15,330. VW brand registrations increased 11 percent to 14,351. VW brand leads BMW over 11 months with 191,394 sales (down 8.6 percent) compared with BMW brand's 167,527 registrations, (up 12 percent).
• Download Excel file, above right, for UK sales.
Sales across Volkswagen Group's other brands were positive last month despite the automaker's emissions-cheating scandal. Seat's volume leapt 35 percent boosted by the success of the marque's first SUV, the Ateca. Skoda sales were up 24 percent, while Audi's volume gained 17 percent and Porsche's registrations rose 22 percent.
The UK's sales rise mirrored gains in other key European markets in November. In Germany sales rose 1.5 percent, while registrations jumped 9 percent in France. Italian sales increased 8.2 percent and Spanish sales jumped 14 percent.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report