Car buyers shun showrooms in 2011

  • Market fell by 4.4% for the year, total of 1.94m sales
  • Despite this, the year’s forecast was exceeded
  • Average emissions of new cars continues to fall

New car buyers appear to have avoided dealerships in 2011, as new cars sales fell year-on-year.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a drop in yearly sales of 4.4%. Consequently, a total of 1.94 million cars were sold in 2011, some 85,593 less than in 2010.

December sales capped this off with a 3.7% drop compared to last year. Figures for the final month showed 119,188 sales, a fall from 123,817 in December 2010. This was the 10th monthly decline for the year.

Despite the decrease the overall figure was actually higher than the SMMT originally forecast for 2011, by around 18,000 cars. The sales at the start of the year were set against the scrappage-influenced sales of 2010, making it difficult to match previous results.  

This year's figures have been heavily influenced by company car sales. Private registrations for the year compared to 2010 were down by 14% from 958,005 to 823,094. The fleet market, however, was up 4.7% compared to 2010. That resulted in a rise from 973,233 sales to 1.019m.

Sales of diesel models also increased and accounted for a little more than 50% of overall sales for the year. This would have been heavily influenced by the large number of fleet registrations. This may also account for the drop in average new car CO2 emissions which fell to a low of 138g/km.

The biggest selling manufacturer for the year was Ford with a total of 265,894 cars sold during the year. This was closely followed by Vauxhall, which sold 234,710. Volkswagen came in third with 179,290. BMW and Audi were next in fourth and fifth respectively.

Ford’s victory was aided by the fact the Fiesta and Focus finished first and second in the best-selling cars of the year, with 96,112 and 81,832 registrations respectively. The Vauxhall Corsa came in third, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra.

Some manufacturers suffered more than others in 2011. For instance Mazda sales dropped from 31,219 to 45,449, a 31% fall. Renault sold 95,608 cars in 2010, yet only 68,449 last year. That means a 28% drop in sales. The slow demise of Saab throughout the year meant the company sold 4,138 cars, down 29% on the previous year’s 5,898.

With a weak economy and tough times ahead for 2012, counterbalanced with the launch of many new cars and increasingly more economical models, the market is expected to remain relatively stable. While the outlook for 2012 remains difficult, the SMMT forecasts that 2013 may be the first year of proper recovery in the automotive market.