The new car market picked up in October after being in the doldrums for most of the year - but the prospect of a further rise in interest rates this week seems to be keeping private buyers away from the showrooms.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders yesterday showed that registrations rose by 0.9 per cent to 153,851 units last month.
But it was only the second monthly gain so far this year and the market was 3.2 per cent adrift at 1,055,739 units between January and October.
Last month's recovery was underpinned by a "solid" performance by the fleet sector, which saw its share of total registrations rise to 52.9 per cent from 51.1 per cent in the same month last year, the SMMT said.
Private registrations, in contrast, remained "almost unchanged" last month and the SMMT said the expected rise in interest rates made the market hard to read.
The organisation raised its forecast for 2005 by 15,000 units to 2.345 million, which would give a stronger outcome than had previously been expected.
Among West Midland carmakers, Jaguar seemed to put the brake on its recent sales decline, losing eight per cent at 1,448 last month, leaving it 11 per cent down at 20,535 year to date.
The loss-maker has recently been at the centre of speculation that parent group Ford was looking to sell it to aid its own recovery plan, but bosses in Detroit have publicly denied it, saying they are happy with its progress.
Jaguar is pinning its hopes of getting back into profit by selling higher margin, more profitable, cars in the top segment of each of its market rather than chasing higher volumes.
Land Rover, also part of Ford, sold 2,746 vehicles last month, 1.5 per cent fewer than the same month last year.
The Solihull off-road specialist, which is expecting a boost from the new Liverpool-built Freelander2, was 0.71 per cent down at 37,685 units over the first ten months.
Peugeot shrugged off a concerted union campaign to boycott its cars in protest over the closure of French group's Ryton plant near Coventry, to sell 9,896 cars last month, a rise of 6.11 per cent.
Mini, built at BMW's Plant Oxford, saw its sales fall 53 per cent to 1,489 last month ahead of the arrival in showrooms of the updated, second generation car on November 18.