Belfast Telegraph

‘Cash for clunkers’ drove new car sales up by 50%

By Margaret Canning

The Government’s car scrappage scheme has been driving up sales of new cars in Northern Ireland, according to transport statistics from the Department for Regional Development.

Motorists rushed to take advantage of the ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme introduced in last year’s Budget, so that there were 9,515 registrations of new cars from October to December last year, a 50% increase on the same three months in 2008.

But the use of public transport fell in the same period, with average weekly bus journeys down 6% to 1.45 million. Journeys by rail were also down 5% to 200,000 per week.

However, takings from bus journeys were up 2% to £2.5m — although receipts from rail tickets fell by 8% to £540,000.

The department’s transport statistics also revealed more males than females were passing their driving tests, with 55% of male candidates sailing through the test, compared to 45% of female learners.

But the province’s pass rate was significantly better for both sexes than the Great Britain average of a 48% pass rate for males and a 42% pass rate for females.

Angela McGowan, chief economist at Northern Bank, said the new car sales were supported by lower VAT in the three-month period and the car scrappage scheme, which gave motorists a £2,000 discount on a new set of wheels if they traded in a car of more than 10 years.

With the car scrappage scheme due to run on until the end of this month, Ms McGowan said sales for the first three months of 2010 could also be healthy.

But she added: “Beyond March this industry is expected to experience a relatively slow year as the scrappage scheme disappears. However, should the relatively weak pound be maintained in the months ahead, local car retailers have still got a window of opportunity to pursue Republic of Ireland customers for car sales and follow-up car servicing.”

Vauxhall was the most popular make of new car in Northern Ireland from October to December last year, accounting for 11% (1,013) of all new cars registered.

Ford — which occupied the top spot in 2009 — was relegated to second place and accounted for 1,005 cars sold, followed by Renault, with the French manufacturer selling 877 cars.

But sales were down by around 37% on June to September in 2009 as customers awaited the new registration plate for 2010 before making a planned purchase.

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