Car sales in fast lane but slowdown round corner

Motor industry bosses yesterday forecast another “bumper” month for new car sales after August saw strong gains on both sides of the Border, but gave a cooler outlook for the rest of the year.
The Ford Fiesta topped the sale charts in Scotland and the UK as a wholeThe Ford Fiesta topped the sale charts in Scotland and the UK as a whole
The Ford Fiesta topped the sale charts in Scotland and the UK as a whole

September is one of the two months in the year when dealerships get a fillip from the plate change, in this case to “64”. That can leave showrooms quiet in the weeks building up to the change-over.

However, industry leaders said they were pleased with August’s performance after year-on-year gains of 9.4 per cent for the UK as a whole and 7.8 per cent north of the Border. The UK result marks a record 30th month of gains in new car sales.

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Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “Once again we are pleased to see an increase of this size in August which, traditionally, is a quiet month.

“This sort of increase makes us suspect that September will be a bumper month as the new ‘64’ plate arrives and whilst we do expect increases to be lower in the final quarter of the year, we still anticipate 2014 will be a very, very good year for the motor trade.”

Motorists are said to have been attracted by new, more fuel efficient models and low-interest financing and personal leasing deals. Across the UK, a total of 72,163 new vehicles were registered in August. It takes the year-to-date total to more than 1.53 million – a 10.1 per cent rise on the total for the first eight months of 2013. In Scotland, registrations during August totalled 6,450 units. The Ford Fiesta topped the best sellers’ tables on both sides of the Border.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which compiles the monthly data, said August had seen “confident private and fleet consumers continuing to snap up enticing deals on a wealth of advanced new products”.

He added: “The UK’s performance in the context of Europe is particularly impressive, with growth consistently ahead of the rest of the EU for the past two years.”

The SMMT said private registrations had grown from around 840,000 units in the year before March 2012 to 1.15 million cars in the past 12 months.

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, which represents car and commercial vehicle retailers across Britain, said: “It is positive and encouraging to see that the new car market continued to thrive during August in what is traditionally a low volume month for car sales. Therefore… we anticipate that sales of the new 64-plate to do very well.”

IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer added: “Private car sales are undoubtedly being buoyed by attractive offers and finance packages as well as by appealing, fuel-efficient new models.”

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Last month, it was predicted that sales across the UK would top 2.45 million vehicles in 2014 – marking a 8.1 per cent gain on 2013 and the best year-end figure for a decade. In Scotland, that 2014 total could hit 220,000.

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