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Car sales fall as consumer saving moves up a gear

Northern Ireland's consumers are spending less and saving more, according to latest data.

New vehicle registrations in Northern Ireland, one of the most accurate measures of consumer confidence, slumped in the three months to the end of June by 13.4% to 12,164 cars compared to the same period in 2010. New car registrations were also down 27% from the first quarter of the year.

"A combination of high fuel prices, squeezed disposable incomes and low confidence have held consumers back from splashing out on new cars," Northern Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said.

"Northern Bank's recent consumer confidence survey revealed 48% of households surveyed were planning to spend less on 'big ticket' items.

"This suggests that the car industry will face difficult trading conditions in the months ahead.

"On the upside however, the pressure has eased in Europe in terms of the debt crisis and in this respect credit conditions should improve."

"Eventually, consumers will have to replace old and inefficient cars and when that demand materialises, the car industry will see consumers demanding more fuel efficient models."

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank has revealed a surge in the number of local people saving regularly.

The bank said it saw a 50% rise in the number of regular savings accounts opened with customers saving around £260 a month.

"We have been pleasantly surprised by the response from customers to develop their savings habits," said Stephen Cruise, Managing Director, Private Banking and Advice.