Belfast Telegraph

New car sales move into the fast lane with 7% rise

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland's new car sales are back in gear for the first time since June 2010, according to new figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there were 3,173 new car sales in October 2011, 7% higher than the corresponding month in 2010.

Despite this rise, the number of new car sales in October remains almost 25% below the corresponding figure in 2007.

And car sales are still 11% lower for the year to date, down from 48,790 to 43,301, than for the same period last year.

The figures here remain just 0.9% or 420 above the low in mid-2009. In comparison, new car sales in the Republic over the year to October 2011 are 58% above a 2009 low. New car sales levels are one of the most accurate measures of economic health.

According to analysis carried out by Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey, there were 20,708 fewer car sales in the year to October 2011 relative to the 2007 boom, equating to almost 400 fewer car sales each week or over 1,725 fewer per month.

Mr Ramsey said: "With significant headwinds facing the Northern Ireland consumer in the months ahead, such as inflation, squeeze on incomes and job insecurity, consumer sensitive sectors such as retail, pubs, restaurants and new car sales will remain under significant pressure for some time yet."

Yet again, new car sales in Northern Ireland were dwarfed by the figures in the other UK regions, but showed the biggest overall rise compared to the previous month.