New car sales on course for record year after November rise

New Land Rover cars are seen in a parking lot at the Jaguar Land Rover plant at Halewood in Liverpool, northern England, September 12 , 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - British new car registrations rose by nearly 3 percent last month, an industry body said on Monday, putting the sector on course for record sales in 2016, although demand from retail customers fell for the eighth month in a row.

Strong demand from businesses for fleet vehicles compensated for the fall in individual buyers, lifting overall sales by 2.9 percent to 184,101 vehicles in November, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

It is the first time the industry has sold more than 2.5 million vehicles in the first eleven months of the year, putting it on track to beat the 2.63 million sold last year, despite uncertainty created by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Low interest rates and cheap finance packages - accounting for around three quarters of sales - have spurred demand in Europe’s second-biggest car market in recent years.

Sales dipped for only the second time in over four years in June, the month of the Brexit vote, before gradually recovering.

This month, just under 120,000 cars would need to be sold for the industry to hit a new high. Last December, there were 180,077 new car registrations.

“The overall growth in what is usually a quiet month is extremely positive and annual figures are still projected to reach over 2.67 million of units,” said Sue Robinson, the Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter