SALES of new cars north of the Border are accelerating ahead of the rest of the UK as confidence in the economy gathers pace.
Industry leaders yesterday expressed surprise at a near-10 per cent year-on-year jump in Scottish car sales during October, defying expectations for only a modest gain following September’s busy plate-change month.
The rise was more than twice the increase seen across the UK as a whole and also reflects strong demand for smaller, fuel-efficient models such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500, which made up the top three best-sellers in Scotland.
Unveiling the latest monthly figures, Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “After a strong September we had anticipated only a small increase in October and we believe the continued sizeable rise confirms that Scottish consumers believe we are experiencing an improvement in the economy.
“SMTA franchise dealers have a large range of low running cost new vehicles available and I believe that the car-buying public, and also now businesses, are back in the market to take advantage of the current availability of these models.”
New car registrations in Scotland totalled 15,034 last month, up 9.8 per cent on a year earlier. The UK total was 157,314 – a rise of 4 per cent, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
In the year to the end of October, the Scottish increase was 13.1 per cent against 9.9 per cent for the remainder of the UK.
October’s UK-wide rise – the 20th successive monthly increase – took the year-so-far total to just over 1.95 million.
The SMMT now expects the year-end new car sales figure to reach 2.25 million – well up on 2.07 million last year and the best year since 2007.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “We have now seen 20 consecutive months of growth. These sustained rises have been driven by robust private demand, a trend that has given us the confidence to raise our year-end forecast. we anticipate more moderate growth as the market stabilises.”
Private sales across the UK grew 4.5 per cent last month,up 15.7 per cent for the year so far.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “Car manufacturers will be pleased with the way sales have gone so far in the UK in 2013 and they will be encouraged by the markedly improved UK economic environment and the recent substantial strengthening in consumer and business confidence.
“Even so, manufacturers will be very aware that it is not all plain driving ahead, with consumers’ purchasing power squeezed by inflation persistently running markedly higher than earnings growth while businesses generally remain keen to contain costs.”
Euan Murray, relationship director, Barclays corporate banking, Scotland, added: “As we drive into the traditionally quiet winter months, we predict sales will continue to hold steady, keeping the UK market ahead of Europe.”