Car showrooms expect good March after strong sales

The new Fiesta ST
The new Fiesta ST
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SCOTTISH new car sales continued to accelerate last month, racing ahead of the increase for the UK as a whole and leading industry experts to predict an “excellent” March thanks to the latest 13-plate vehicles.

February is normally a quiet month for sales, as customers delay purchases until new number plates are released on 1 March.

But new car sales north of the Border rose by 14.4 per cent to 5,064, outstripping the 7.9 per cent increase to 66,749 for the UK as a whole.

Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) said: “Obviously we are very pleased that 2013 has shown such a good start and continues on from the last quarter of 2012.

“February is a low volume month prior to the March registrations, but this gives us genuine belief that, with private demand increasing, March will be an excellent month. Our members’ showrooms have certainly reported increased footfall over the past month as consumers seek the new plate.”

Sue Robinson, director of the Retail Motor Industry’s National Franchised Dealers Association, said that her members had reported a similar trend.

“We expect market growth to continue at a similar level during March with dealers already reporting boosted sales,” she said. “There continues to be a strong demand from consumers.”

Growth was fuelled by private demand again, with February securing the highest growth in the private market since the end of the UK government’s scrappage scheme in 2010.

Mike Baunton, interim chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), said: “UK new car registrations have risen every month for the past year, with February continuing the trend, boosted by the highest increase in private consumer demand since spring 2010. Attractive new-car deals are sustaining the market. New models are delivering ever greater fuel efficiency, practicality, refinement, technology and predictable ownership costs, so motorists are seeing the benefit of new car purchases.”

Retail analyst Nick Bubb noted: “Hard-pressed European car manufacturers have been dumping surplus stock on the UK market at attractive prices.”

News of the rise in car sales came as Taggarts-owner Lookers unveiled a 9 per cent rise in profits for 2012 to £36.8 million, beating analysts’ forecasts and allowing the firm to raise its total dividend by 8 per cent to 2.35p. Lookers bought Glasgow-based Lomond Motors in July for £15m.

Sanjay Vidyarthi, an analyst at Espirito Santo, said: “Lookers remains well positioned to consolidate the UK car market.”

• Turnover at Ingram Motoring Group, the Kilmarnock-based car retailer founded by former Ayr United striker Alex “Dixie” Ingram, revved up by 26 per cent in 2012 to £25.6m as customers continued to buy Hyundais, Skodas and Volkswagens.

But pre-tax profits dropped by 58 per cent to just £24,000 after the firm bought a site in Ayr to which it relocated its accident repair workshop, which had been on a rented site.

NEW CAR SALES

SCOTLAND

1 Ford Fiesta 419

2 Ford Focus 226

3 Vauxhall Corsa 212

4 Vauxhall Astra 141

5 Peugeot 208 126

6 Fiat 500 123

7 Ford Ka 120

8 Nissan Qashqai 109

9 Vauxhall Antara 108

10 Volkswagen Polo 105

UK

1 Ford Focus 3,853

2 Ford Fiesta 3,655

3 Vauxhall Corsa 3,214

4 Volkswagen Golf 2,413

5 Vauxhall Astra 2,181

6 Nissan Qashqai 1,856

7 Volkswagen Polo 1,437

8 Peugeot 208 1,423

9 Mercedes C-Class 1,317

10 Nissan Juke 1,106

Source: SMMT