Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 2016 was a record year for true fleet growth. Leasing/contract hire registrations were up 6.6%, while fleet other registrations were up 4.3%. Combined, the numbers indicate a rise of 6.7% compared to a total UK car registrations growth of 2.25%. This establishes true fleet as the largest overall driver of registrations growth in 2016.
The rise in registrations is largely attributed to manufacturers investing resources to improve corporate sector penetration.
Land Rover saw true fleet sales up by 58.5%, the largest increase by any brand. They were followed closely by Kia (51.3%), Jaguar (50.7%), Mini (25.7%), Renault (21.1%) and Volvo (20.4%).
Volkswagen, the company which traditionally sells the most units into true fleet, saw registrations fall by almost 10% following the emissions scandal in late 2015. They have been left behind by BMW (up 17% to 86,202 units) and Mercedez-Benz (up 18% to 81,902).
Volkswagen's rental sector registrations also fell 30% in 2016. However, some losses were offset via its own employee scheme increasing by 58%. Volkswagen was one of only five manufacturers to see true fleet sales falling.
According to the SMMT figures, other major brands were hit by a falloff in the leasing sector. Citroën suffered the largest drop in true fleet sales at 16%, while sister company Peugeot fell 12%. Nissan was also down 6%, and Vauxhall fell by 5.8%.
Audi, on the other hand, increased its rental penetration by 10% while achieving a 6% rise in true fleet sales. Seat and Skoda also saw true fleet rises of roughly 3.5%, despite differing approaches. Seat reduced its rental penetration by 17%, while Skoda invested more into the channel at a 9% rise.
Over the year, Vauxhall increased its rental business by around 5%, making up for a true fleet sales drop by pushing an 87.6% increase in rental car supply.
Almost 29% of rental registrations in Q3 can be attributed to its 16,843 units. Vauxhall accounted for 22% of total rental registrations in the market, up two points since 2015. Both Jaguar and Land Rover likewise registered increases in their rental businesses, a result of their strategy to raise and renew brand awareness by pushing their latest models to market. Land Rover registered a rise of 21.5%. Meanwhile Jaguar saw a substantial 78% rise in private registrations, suggesting their strategy is working well. Nissan reacted to a dip in private and true fleet registrations by increasing its number of rental units by 170% in the second half of 2016. This ultimately saw rental registrations increase by 37%. The majority of growth was seen in the SUV/crossover, luxury premium and mini segments.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, said the 2016 had proven 'more resilient than we expected', thanks to high levels of consumer and business confidence combined with affordable finance options. However, Hawes advised: 'we've not seen the full effect of Brexit yet.' He is lobbying the Government to prevent tariffs in any future European Union deal which, he says, could add approximately £1,500 to the price of a car. 'The Government has been clear it wants to maintain the competitiveness of the UK motor industry. We want to maintain as many benefits of being in the single economy as we can.' Although the market remains stable thanks in part to three-to-four year finance deals negating the impact of rising exchange rates SMMT is forecasting a 5% to 6% reduction in registrations during 2017. Conversely, a swell of registrations is predicted in March, in anticipation of upcoming Vehicle Excise Duty changes in April.