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Coronavirus: Fears for car trade in Northern Ireland after just 24 sales in a month

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SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes (Jeff Spicer/PA)

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes (Jeff Spicer/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes (Jeff Spicer/PA)

The local motor trade was close to being obliterated last month with just 24 new car sales registered, figures show.

The lockdown imposed during March meant all showrooms were shuttered, leading to a 99.4% fall in sales.

Unlike other months, when they lay claim to positions in the top three of popular cars, not one new Ford Fiesta or Ford Focus was registered.

Instead, Northern Ireland's best-selling car during April was identified by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as "other British", with three sold.

Three models tied for second place in the figures, selling two each. They were the Dacia Sandero, Range Rover and Vauxhall Vivaro.

The remaining 15 cars were all one each of models ranging from the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Clio and Lexus CT to two Audis -an Audi A3 and an Audi 6.

In contrast to the two dozen cars sold in April, 4,060 were sold during the same month last year.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said car sales in Northern Ireland had already been on a downward trend before the coronarvirus outbreak and shutdown.

It is feared that the fall in demand for new cars could ultimately have an impact on job numbers at major motor manufacturers.

According to the SMMT, which releases the monthly report on car sales in the UK regions, sales in Northern Ireland over the year so far are down 43%.

All of the UK regions saw a near vanishing of sales last month, with a drop of 97.19% in England and a fall of 98.7% in Wales.

The SMMT said the decline was the steepest in modern times and reflected a similar collapse in car markets across Europe, with a fall of 88.8% in France and a drop of 97.5% in the Italian market.

UK-wide, just 4,321 new cars were registered in the month - some 156,743 fewer than in April last year.

The SMMT said that any new cars which had been sold were delivered to key workers and frontline public services and companies.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, added: "With the UK's showrooms closed for the whole of April, the market's worst performance in living memory is hardly surprising.

"These figures, however, still make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

"A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and, as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard.

"Safely restarting this most critical sector and revitalising what will, inevitably, be subdued demand will be key to unlocking manufacturing and accelerating the UK's economic regeneration."

Belfast Telegraph