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UK car sales remain strong in February

By raccars Published

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February marked another record month for new car sales in the UK, up 8.4% year on year.

Last month saw the highest number of new registrations for February since 2004, but figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that despite overall growth, some major brands suffered a decline in volume.

The winners and losers

83,395 vehicles were registered in February 2016, but Peugeot, Dacia and Mini were among the brands struggling. Volkswagen sales decreased by 13.1 per cent; Toyota saw sales fall by 16.2 per cent last month; and Vauxhall's new car sales dropped by 17.6%.

Premium German brands seem to have mopped up the buyers lost by others, with Audi, BMW and Mercedes all enjoying increased sales volumes. Ford, Honda, Nissan, Seat, Skoda and Volvo also enjoyed a successful February.

While recent events haven't had a disastrous effect upon the sale of diesel vehicles, the fuel's 5.6 per cent increase last month was significantly less than that of petrol, sales of which went up by 10.7 per cent. Alternatively fuelled vehicles continue to gain ground, with sales increasing by 19.9 per cent to 2,221 units in February. Private sales were driving the February boom, with a rise of more than 22 per cent, whereas fleet sales dropped by 1.4 per cent. Nonetheless, fleet sales still take 53.1 per cent of the new car market. The SMMT pointed out that February is not usually a busy month for new car sales as buyers hold back before March's new registration plates, so the news presages well for the rest of the year, particularly after a strong January.

February's car sales by model

The Ford Fiesta took its usual top spot, with its sparkling drive, good looks and practical design helping it achieve 4,507 unit sales last month. It was followed in February by the Volkswagen Golf. Its popularity with fleet buyers saw it post sales of 2,574 units. The Nissan Qashqai continues to conquer the new car market and took third place, just behind the Golf with 2,486 unit sales. It's reportedly a great drive, boasts strong residual values and is even more practical than the Golf.

The Vauxhall Corsa could only manage fourth place in February with 2,408 unit sales, followed by the Ford Focus in fifth with 2,369 buyers. The much anticipated new Vauxhall Astra was a rather paltry sixth on 1,626 units, almost certainly because buyers are waiting for the new March registration plates.

The Audi A3 was seventh with 1,619 sales, followed by the Volkswagen Polo with 1,585. The Kia Sportage provided an interesting shake up of list which is usually tedious in its familiarity, taking ninth place in the February best sellers list with 1,521 unit sales. This is a strong value for money prospect in the crowded and very talented SUV sector, although it can't quite match its more expensive rivals in the class for driving dynamics or refinement.

The top ten was rounded out by the Vauxhall Mokka, which is starting to become a familiar face among the best sellers and managed 1,506 unit sales last month.

2016 year to date best sellers

February's figures mean that the Nissan Qashqai becomes the second best-selling car of the year to date, behind the Ford Fiesta and just ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa. While it failed to make the top ten in February, a strong January helped to put the Nissan Juke in ninth place in the year to date best sellers list. This otherwise contains all the usual suspects; after the third placed Corsa comes the Ford Focus, then the Volkswagens Golf and Polo, the Audi A3, the Vauxhall Astra, the Juke and the Vauxhall Mokka completes the set.

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