NEW CAR sales are on track for their best year since 2004 after UK dealers hit the accelerator pedal last month.
Industry leaders yesterday expressed surprise at news of a sharp rise in registrations north of the Border, where a record outcome for the year is possible.
Across the UK, sales are now projected to top 2.45 million vehicles in 2014, 8.1 per cent more than last year and the best year-end figure for a decade. In Scotland, that 2014 total could hit 220,000.
Motorists are said to have been attracted by new, more fuel efficient models and attractive financing and personal leasing deals.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which compiles the monthly data, said: “July saw the new car market extend its record period of growth to a 29th month, as confident consumers took advantage of an array of new products and attractive finance deals on the latest fuel-efficient new cars.
“The continued positivity has led to an uplift in our full-year forecast. However, the more moderate growth of the last three months shows that overall demand is beginning to stabilise.”
New registrations last month totalled 172,907 – a 6.6 per cent rise on the July 2013 figure. It takes the year-so-far tally to 1,460,172 – a 10.1 per cent hike on the January-July 2013 total.
In Scotland, registrations in July totalled 14,403 units – up by almost 8.7 per cent, year on year.
The Vauxhall Corsa remained the best selling model north of the Border, with the British-built Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Astra also making it into the Scots top five.
Douglas Robertson, head of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “We are very pleased to see an increase of this size in July.
“Our feeling was that the market was starting to stabilise and we had anticipated no more than a 5 per cent increase [in July]; we are obviously ~very pleased to have exceeded this and we remain close to 10 per cent up for the first seven months of the year.”
He added “Looking ahead, it is possible that sales could reach 220,000 by the end of the year. This would be 7.5 per cent ahead of 2013 and a record for new car sales in Scotland.”
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, described the latest numbers as “extremely encouraging”.
She added: “With such strong manufacturer and finance offers currently available, dealers are reporting that it is proving much easier to close a sale. However, competitive pricing and strong incentives remain important if the sales trend is to continue throughout 2014.”
Christian Stadler, an associate professor at Warwick Business School who researches the car industry, said: “Ford, Opel [Vauxhall in the UK], Peugeot and Renault all have new products in the showroom and might benefit from the upturn now. While Japanese car producers should be watched as they will benefit from a weak yen.”