motor industry leaders yesterday hailed figures showing an upturn in new car sales but refused to call an end to the consumer malaise.
The launch of the new 12-plate at the start of March helped steer customers towards Scottish showrooms, with 34,782 cars registered during the month.
The year-on-year increase of 6.3 per cent was well ahead of a UK-wide rise of 1.8 per cent.
Best-sellers included the Vauxhall Corsa, with more than 3,000 sold across Scotland, the Ford Fiesta and British-built Nissan Qashqai. At the luxury end of the market, 12 Bentleys and seven Ferraris were snapped up. Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “As private car registrations in Scotland are a higher percentage of the total than fleet and business these figures can be taken perhaps as a sign of returning consumer confidence/
“However, it is much too early to suggest that the recession has ended. A continued increase over the rest of the year would be the sign we are looking for.”
The figures, which are provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), showed that across the UK as a whole there were 372,835 registrations in March. Last month’s figure, which was about 17 per cent lower than the pre-recession March 2007 total, took the total for 2012 so far to 563,556 – up 0.9 per cent on January-March 2011.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “The squeeze on consumers’ purchasing power should ease as 2012 progresses as inflation falls back further.”