While registrations were strong in December 2005 (158.866 units against 144,353 in December 2004), the 8.7% increase disguised what was an undoubtedly tough year.
Germany, Europe’s largest car market, showed the opposite trend, recording an 8.8% dip in December but 1.6% growth over the year. Some 3,319,825 new cars were registered in Germany in 2005. France showed the strongest growth in Europe with annual registrations increasing 2.7% to 2,067,818 in 2005, despite slowing 1.4% in December.
In the U.K., a strong month of December (up 8.7%) was put down to a huge jump in diesel registrations, brought about by the last month of tax breaks for Euro 4 diesel company car drivers.
Much of the blame for the 5% dip in the annual figure is said be down to MG Rover’s closure. According to SMMT analysis, “the loss of MG Rover represented the equivalent of 37.4% of the total market’s downturn in 2005 and 98.8% of the drop in the volume of U.K.-built cars in the year.” Imported cars represented a record 83.0% of the U.K. market in 2005, up from 81.9% in 2004.
The Ford Focus remained the U.K.’s best selling car for the seventh year in a row. It was also the top seller in every month of 2005. The Vauxhall Astra took second place, up from sixth in 2004. Small family cars in the lower medium segment rose 32,212 units in 2005, making it the largest segment for the first time. The 4×4 segment also saw growth, up 7,953 units to 187,392. The supermini, lower medium and upper medium segments now make up 78.8% of the market, totalling 1,921,362 units.
The overall slow-down in the new car market in 2005 lay firmly within the private purchase sector. The weaker economy and growing concerns over cost pressures saw the private market fall 123,553 units down 10.3 per cent. However, large and small fleet sectors both saw increases in December, up 16.2% and 24.8%, respectively. Fleet sales made up 48.6% of the new car market in 2005.
The total U.K. market size of 2,439,717 was the fifth largest market on record.