Belfast Telegraph

Fall in new car sales reflects low consumer confidence in NI: economist

ford kuga
ford kuga
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A 3% fall in the number of new cars sold in Northern Ireland during November is the latest indicator of falling consumer confidence here, it's been claimed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there were 3,160 cars sold here in November, down from 3,253 over the same month last year.

And over the 11 months of the year so far, there have been 49,457 new sets of wheels leaving car showrooms in the province - down 2.7%, the same rate of decline across the UK as a whole.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said November marked the poorest performance in new car sales in Northern Ireland since 2012.

The Ford Fiesta has been the most popular car so far this year, with 1,529 sold.

But during November, its sister models the Kuga and Focus were number one and two respectively.

There were 106 Kugas sold, and 90 Ford Focus cars.

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Mr Ramsey said that sales of new cars traditionally slowed down during November and December.

But he said the 3% decrease year-on-year for November was continuing a trend for falling sales since early to mid-2016.

Over the year to date, the figure of 49,457 cars sold was 125 fewer car sales per month relative to last year.

"The latest SMMT statistics represent the weakest sales figures in seven years," he said.

"With just one month of the calendar year remaining, 2019 is destined to be the fourth year out of the last five with falling new car sales."

He added that 2014 was the last year in which Northern Ireland car dealers had posted anything more than a marginal increase in sales.

"Since then, the volume of new car sales has fallen by almost 11% (6,200 cars), which equates to more than 500 fewer new car sales per month.

"New car sales over the last 12 months are 26% below the pre-downturn high of 2007."

He said the car sales figures were the latest of a large number of signs pointing to a lack of consumer confidence, including falls in retail activity as reflected in other economic surveys and a rise in bankruptcies.

He added: "With economic conditions deteriorating markedly in recent months the outlook for consumer sensitive sectors is set to weaken too.

"Indeed, it is noted that personal insolvencies have rebounded off 2018's eight-year low with a 17% year-on-year rise during the first three quarters of 2019.

"2020 could well see new car sales fall below the 50,000 mark for the first time since 2012."

According to the SMMT, more than one in 10 cars joining the UK roads was either hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric.

Year-to-date figures for the UK as a whole showed that the new car market declined 2.7% during the first 11 months of the year compared with 2018.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "These are challenging times for the UK new car market, with another fall in November reflecting the current climate of uncertainty.

"It's good news, however, to see registrations of electrified cars surging again, and 2020 will see manufacturers introduce plenty of new, exciting models to give buyers even more choice. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go for these vehicles to become mainstream."

Belfast Telegraph