Belfast Telegraph

Car sales up, but still trailing rest of the UK

By David Elliott

Consumer confidence in Northern Ireland showed signs of picking up last month but still remains well behind other regions of the UK.

New car sales, often seen as one of the best indicators of how consumers are feeling, rose in July by 161 with 3,439 cars sold during the month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT).

While a fillip for bullish economy watchers who see the rise as an indication consumers are buying big ticket items once again, and indeed for beleaguered car companies throughout Northern Ireland, the 5% uplift is still at the bottom of the UK league table.

In the same month new car sales climbed over 8% in England, 14% in Wales and 24% in Scotland.

And in the seven months to the end of July, Northern Ireland is the only region in negative territory with a running total of 31,440, down 0.5% on the same period last year.

According to Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey, that figure is 32.5% down on the corresponding period in 2007, a period of time just before the credit crunch had taken hold.

For the UK as a whole new car sales are down only 16.6% on that period. And those that are buying new cars are wanting to keep their costs low.

"What we're going to see increasingly is a change in the type of new car people are purchasing," Mr Ramsey said. "There's going to be more of a focus on cheaper brands, people will be downsizing and will be more interested in fuel efficiency."

Across the UK as a whole, the Ford Focus continues to top the table of the most popular new cars sold with over 67,000 sold in the year to date. It's followed by the Vauxhall Corsa, the Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Golf and the Vauxhall Asta.

Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said fuel efficient models are proving popular.

"International economic stability remains a concern for vehicle manufacturers and the UK market, but intense competition and new fuel efficient products are creating great opportunities for motorists," he added.

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