An (unlucky) 13 month-streak of falling new car sales in the UK has finally come to an end.

It would be premature to start bandying around phrases like "Sizzling Sales in August", so we'll leave that claim to the ice-cream manufacturers. Let's just say that the August 2011 new car sales figures released yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) are a small boost in a challenging market.

We'll start with the positives. August 2011 saw total new registrations up to 59,346 units, which represents a year-on-year increase of 7.3 per cent. The private sector has seen a notable recovery, growing 10.7 per cent last month -- the first rise since June 2010. The fleet sector is also up 4.5 per cent.

Now for the cold hard reality: any improvement has to be viewed in the context of the August 2010 market being the worst on record. The bigger picture is that registrations for 2011 to date are down 6.1 per cent on last year.

Also, the August 2011 new car sales are statistical small beer in the context of new car sales as a whole. September -- with the launch of the new '61 plate -- is what really counts. As Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of SMMT puts it: “The September new car market is always important for the UK motor industry, accounting for around 17% of the full year’s registrations."

What else can we learn from the August 2011 new car sales? Well, small can be beautiful.

The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) says consumers are really seeing the advantages of downsizing to models with cheaper running costs. The figures bear that out with the Mini segment up 34.5 per cent and the Supermini segment rising by 17.6 per cent in August.

Fuel economy improvements will continue to dominate the thoughts of prospective buyers, wincing at the thought of further rises in petrol prices.  Oh, and consumers can be seduced by those "competitive finance offers" -- like three years' free servicing.

Most of all Britons just love a fiesta. (Not in the Spanish "party" sense of course.)  The August 2011 new car sales figures show that once again the Ford Fiesta is the bestselling model in the  new car market -- for the month and  the year to date.

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