Bumpy ride for Scotland’s car dealers as sales reverse

Variants of the Mini were the best selling cars in Scotland.
Variants of the Mini were the best selling cars in Scotland.
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Scotland’s new-car market is likely to continue to under­perform the rest of the UK, bosses yesterday warned, after a further sharp fall in sales.

Registrations of new vehicles tumbled by more than a fifth (21.8 per cent), year-on-year, last month leaving sales for the whole of 2017 down by just under 8 per cent on a year earlier. Those figures compare with UK-wide declines of 14 per cent and 5.7 per cent, respectively, which were revealed last week.

Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “While the level of decline is very disappointing, it would be wrong to suggest that the industry is surprised or even shocked to read the results.

“We have for a very significant time now been reporting on these results as having a very large ‘tactical registrations’ content. Over the last few months of 2017 we have been aware that a number of our larger dealers have been moving away from the process of driving registrations towards a more balanced business model with the additional funding being directed to developing their used vehicle operations.

“I am delighted to confirm 2017 has been very successful with record levels of quality used cars being sold.”

He said that, over the course of 2018, the declines recorded north of the Border were likely to exceed those experienced by the rest of the UK.

Last Friday, Mike Hawes, head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, predicted a fall in UK registrations of up to 7 per cent this year. He also revealed that uncertainty over transitional arrangements following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019 had caused some manufacturers to delay investment decisions.

If there is no clarity by the end of March, they will have to start implementing “contingency plans” which could harm funding for UK operations, he added.

Asked about a sharp decline in diesel sales, Hawes claimed “confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car”.

The latest Scottish figures show that there was a 68.5 per cent surge in the volume of pure electric and hybrid cars sold last year, though they represent just 3.2 per cent of total registrations in 2017.

The best-selling car last month in Scotland was the Mini and its variants, followed by the Ford Focus. During 2017 as a whole, the best seller was the Vauxhall Corsa.