Belfast Telegraph

New vehicle sales flat as motorists feel pinch

By Lesley Houston

Northern Ireland's motorists continue to feel the pinch of the economic downturn with the 'flat' new car market reflecting current consumer confidence levels, according to an economist.

In 2012, there was a slight increase - less than 1% - in the number of new cars registered in Northern Ireland, with the market here lagging behind an upward trend in the rest of the UK.

Statistics revealed a 4% rise in the number of cars registered in England, Scotland and Wales.

The rise of just 0.61% in the province means 290 more cars were registered in Northern Ireland last year than in 2011, following a 12% slump in 2011.

In the Republic, however, fortunes in the motoring industry plummeted with figures indicating an annual decline of almost 12%.

For those able to make the investment and shell out for a new car, sales of Vauxhalls outstripped other brands in Northern Ireland.

However, in each of the UK's other three regions, Ford took the top spot for new registrations.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "Following the 12% fall in new car sales in 2011, last year new car registrations in Northern Ireland were flat. This compared unfavourably with a rise of 4% for the UK.

"However, the Republic of Ireland posted an annual decline of almost 12%. The number of new car sales in Northern Ireland last year was 31% below the level recorded in 2007.

"This is almost twice the decline posted by the UK as a whole.

Meanwhile, new car sales in the Republic of Ireland in 2012 were 58% below the peak recorded in 2007.

"New car sales is a key leading indicator of consumer confidence. The fact that new car sales remained flat last year chimes with consumer sentiment," he added.

In total, some 308 new Vauxhall cars were registered in Northern Ireland out of the 510 new vehicles purchased here.