Stark figures show car crash for Scottish motor dealers

Motor industry leaders have expressed concern at a sharp fall in new car sales north of the Border, with Scotland firmly stuck in the slow lane.

Electric car sales were one of the few bright spots. Picture: Contributed

New figures show that registrations in Scotland reversed 4.7 per cent in the nine months to the end of September, compared with the same period last year. For the UK as a whole that year-on-year decline was just 2.5 per cent.

Only two regions of Scotland – Tayside and Central – have recorded growth in the year to date.

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The figures for September alone are even more stark. There was an 11.3 per cent slide, year-on-year, in Scotland where the UK notched up a modest 1.3 per cent increase.

Car-makers have been demanding a resolution to the Brexit fiasco. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


Sandy Burgess, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “September is one of the industry’s key critical months. Such a dramatic fall in levels of business is very concerning and the politicians must take heed of the serious consequences being recorded across our sector as a result of the continued stalemate and theatre being played out in Westminster and Holyrood.

“The Scottish market has recorded a dramatic drop off when the rest of the UK has had a more modest result. This is most certainly impacted by the additional pressure we have given the 2032 ambitions of the Scottish Government, which in principle we are supportive of, but we have been calling for detail and structure to these ambitions for two years now and there has been very little detail provided for business or the consumer to take a structured decision about their future mobility purchase plans.”

Mike Hawes, head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: "September's modest [UK] growth belies the ongoing downward trend we've seen over the past 30 months.

"We expected to see a more significant increase in September, similar to those seen in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, given the negative effect WLTP (worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure) had on all European markets last year.

"Instead, consumer confidence is being undermined by political and economic uncertainty. We need to restore stability to the market which means avoiding a no-deal Brexit and, moreover, agreeing a future relationship with the EU that avoids tariffs and barriers that could increase prices and reduce buyer choice."

Sales of diesel models UK-wide were down 20.6 per cent during the first nine months of 2019, while demand for new petrol models was up 2.6 per cent.

The market for battery electric cars is up by 122.1 per cent but the plug-in hybrid sector is down by 29.2 per cent.


Alex Buttle, director of car selling comparison website, said: "Monthly new car figures continue to be depressing for a once-thriving UK car industry, and September figures are unlikely to lift the gloomy mood.

"The one green shoot amongst all this negative noise is the strength of electric car sales, with numbers feeling healthy and promising in September. But electric and hybrid sales alone can't yet prop up a car industry that is struggling daily.

"What the car industry needs more than anything else is certainty around our future relationship with the EU.

"With less than a month to go before Brexit, no-one in the industry is any clearer whether we're leaving with or without a deal, or whether there will be a further extension. The whole process is endlessly confusing for industry heads trying to make stocking decisions.

"Consumer confidence is unlikely to be restored for a good while until we are able to move on from Brexit. The longer this situation persists, the more lasting damage will be inflicted on the domestic new car industry, and the longer it will take to recover."

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