A hard road ahead despite healthy Scottish car sales

Scotland’s new car market continued to outperform the rest of the UK last month but industry leaders have warned of a bumpy road ahead.

Figures yesterday showed that 11,794 new cars were registered north of the Border during November, a rise of almost 2 per cent on a year earlier. The increase comes on the back of a 5.1 per cent year-on-year jump in October.

Speaking yesterday, Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA), said there was now some stability in the market.

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“I think, given the current economic situation, that we should be satisfied with a second consecutive month of growth in registration figures even though it is a very small increase,” he noted.

Robertson added: “2012 is going to be another difficult year though we do anticipate there will be a small increase in new car registrations of around 2 per cent which should take us close to 170,000 units for that year.”

The October and November increases follow what was described as a “disappointing” September – a key month for dealers when the “61” plate appeared but sales fell by 1.3 per cent to 31,519.

Last month’s top sellers were led by the Vauxhall Corsa, while the Luton-based carmaker also grabbed third and tenth slots with its Astra and Insignia models, respectively.

Across the UK as a whole, there were 134,027 motors registered in November – a 4.2 per cent fall on the same month a year earlier. There had been a modest 2.6 per cent rise in October, about half the Scottish growth rate.

Despite last month’s dip, the November total was about 5,000 units higher than the outcome expected by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The SMMT now expects UK sales for the whole of 2011 to reach around 1.94 million – slightly down on the 2010 figure of 2.03 million which was boosted by the government’s car scrappage scheme.

Diesel cars achieved a record 55.6 per cent share of the market last month, while alternatively-fuelled cars grabbed a 1.6 per cent slice – the highest yet.

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Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, the forecasting group, noted that there had been a 15.7 per cent year-on-year drop in private car sales last month “reflecting the squeeze on consumers’ purchasing power”.

He said: “The outlook for car manufacturers looks challenging and problematic with the economy struggling markedly, and consumer and business confidence both very low.

“Consumers face squeezed purchasing power and a markedly deteriorating labour market, which is hardly conducive to splashing out on a car.”

Paul Everitt, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “While the November new car market saw a 4.2 per cent dip, the fuel efficiency of new models broke all records with the average new car achieving 52.5 miles to the gallon.”