September marks the end of a quarter and the end of the first three-quarters of the year, and is generally a time to benchmark sales performance. In the UK, the month also sees the introduction of the latest licence plate.
As such, multiple brands and trade bodies, particularly in the UK, have released figures in the past week to demonstrate how strong demand is – or not – for fleet and commercial vehicles.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
Fleet sales of new cars in the UK were up 5.4% in September to 170,569 registrations and up 4.8% for January-September to 842,274 registrations. However, share of the total new car market dropped 2.7ppts year-on-year to 42.3% in September and dropped by the same amount to 46.9% for the first nine months of the year.
Business registrations grew 15.3% to 23,723 units in September and claimed 5.9% of the new car market, a rise of 0.2ppts. Year-to-date business registrations were also up 15.3% to 83,299 units, with a market share of 4.6%, up 0.1ppts.
The SMMT reported fleet and business registrations have now shown a ‘steady’ increase since mid-2009.
Commercial vehicle registrations were up 12.4% year-on-year in September to 49,147 units, up 8.1% year-to-September to 239,356 units and up 2.7% for the 12-month rolling period to 303,261.
Light commercial vehicle (LCV) demand was up 10.3% in September to 43,066 registrations, 9.6% year-to-September to 205,004 registrations, and 4.1% for the 12-months to 257,578 registrations.
However, trucks (over 3.5t) were down 4.2% for the 12-month period to 45,683 registrations and down 0.1% for the nine-month period to 34,352 registrations, but recovered in September, up 29.7% year-on-year to 6,131 registrations.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said "greater confidence and impending Euro 6 legislation" were "producing a strong recovery in truck volumes".
Bus and coach demand returned in September, despite year-on-year drops for the first nine months of the year and the rolling 12-month period.
Purpose-built bus sales were up 46.4% for the month to 369 registrations, but down 13.7% for January-September to 2,173 registrations and down 14.3% for the previous 12 months at 2,767 registrations.
Purpose-built coach sales were positive for all periods: up 11.1% in September to 60, 15.1% for the nine months to 703, and up 3.9% for the 12 months to 792.
Total buses and coaches, including conversions, were up 13.5% year-on-year in September to 1,036 registrations, but down 12.8% to 5,888 registrations for the nine months and down 14.1% to 7,239 registrations for the 12-month period.
British Car Auctions (BCA)
The average value of ex-fleet vehicles at auction hit a record monthly high of £9,182 in September, up 3.19% month-on-month and 10.11% year-on-year, which BCA attributed to the demand for high-quality, ready-to-retail cars.
Meanwhile, LCV auction values hit a monthly record average of £5,158 in September, up by 2.9% month-on-month and 22.1% year-on-year. Average sale against CAP also reached 105.19%, up from 100.72% in September 2012.
Ex-fleet and lease LCVs also reached their highest ever monthly average value of £6,408, up 3.1% month-on-month and 28.1% year-on-year. Sale against CAP was 105.06%, compared to 99.90% the year before, while sale against manufacturers’ retail price was 37.03%, up from 31.65% the year before.
Part-exchange LCV values were up 2.6% month-on-month and 17.9% year-on-year to £3,509.
LCV values at auction recovered in September, with panel vans continuing to appreciate and average value hitting £4,253, up 4.34% month-on-month and 1.24% year-on-year, according to Manheim.
Meanwhile, values in the ex-fleet sector rose for the first time in three months, up by 5.6% month-on-month and 9.3% year-on-year to an average £7,329.
In particular, the MPV segment rose by 19.4% month-on-month to an average auction value of £8,360 per vehicle, while the average mini-MPV saw its value drop by £396 compared to August.
Ford used the results to claim a 48th consecutive year of market leadership for both the Transit and the marque’s commercial vehicles.
Ford’s year-to-September commercial vehicle registrations rose by 4.9% to 55,589 units, with a 21.2% market share in September and 21.9% for the first nine months of 2013. The Transit accounted for 14.7% of the September market and 14.0% for the year-to-date.
Mark Ovenden, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain, noted the work of Ford Credit in the brand’s success.
Toyota said its September registrations of the Verso, up 32.3% year-on-year, were split evenly between retail and fleet, while January-September fleet sales of the Rav4 were more than double those of the same period of 2012.
Kia dealer fleet sales set records for the month, the quarter and the year-to-date.
Mercedes-Benz recorded a best-ever month for registrations of its vans – 5,766 units, up 28.8% year-on-year – and its trucks – 1,050 units, up 75%. This included the Fuso Canter, which saw 148 registrations in September, another monthly best, up 80.5%.
Year-to-date fleet and business registrations were up 13% year-on-year and UK vans sales for the brand were more than in any other market in September.
Mitsubishi announced the L200 remained the market leader for pick-up trucks in the UK with a 26% share of the September market, 23.4% year-to-date.
Citroën has recorded a best-ever September LCV performance with 4,292 units registered, up 27.06% year-on-year.
Year-to-date, the Berlingo was the best-selling small (sub 2.5t) van with 10,861 registrations, and 18,394 registrations of all its commercial vehicles under 3.5t saw the brand claim an LCV market share of 8.97%.
For the first nine months of 2013, the marque also registered 1,776 sales of the Nemo (up 18% year-on-year), 2,384 sales of the Dispatch (up 35%) and 3,373 sales of the Relay (up 8%).
Volkswagen registered its best-ever September sales performance for its Commercial Vehicles brand with 5,276 sales, including 2,302 registrations of the Transporter and 1,825 of the Caddy. The Amarok and Crafter models sold 469 and 680 units respectively, plus 52 heavy commercial vehicles.
Year-to-September the brand sold 31,262 vehicles, up 18.9% year-on-year and securing a highest-ever market share of 13.8%.
Alex Smith, director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, praised the brand’s "service support, strong dedicated network and cast iron residual values" for the results.
Finance & Leasing Association (FLA)
The FLA also reported finance results for August this week.
While commercial vehicle finance rose 15% by value, year-on-year, for the month to £353m, business car finance dropped 9% to £398m.
For the quarter, commercial vehicle finance was up 14% to £1.2bn and car finance down by 1% to £1.6bn.
For the rolling 12-month period, both commercial vehicle and business car finance were up by 2%, to £4.3bn and £6.7bn respectively.
The number of new cars bought on finance by businesses was up 12% for the month to 26,009 units, with used cars down 30% to 2,397.
For the quarter, new cars were up 6% to 97,449 and used cars down 31% to 13,948; for the 12 months to August, new cars were virtually unchanged at 396,421 units financed and used cars were up 11% to 63,974.