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February hit by 20-year low as car sales slump again

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Car sales in Northern Ireland fell by nearly 8% last month, making it the worst February for the market in more than 20 years, according to new figures

Car sales in Northern Ireland fell by nearly 8% last month, making it the worst February for the market in more than 20 years, according to new figures

Car sales in Northern Ireland fell by nearly 8% last month, making it the worst February for the market in more than 20 years, according to new figures

Car sales in Northern Ireland fell by nearly 8% last month, making it the worst February for the market in more than 20 years, according to new figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there had been 3,555 new cars sold here in February, down from 3,887 a year before.

That was the poorest performance for the month of February since at least 1996, the SMMT said - and a reflection of low consumer confidence leading to a reluctance to make big purchases.

And over the year so far, there has been a decline of 10% in the number of new cars registered in January and February in Northern Ireland.

There were 9,547 cars sold in the first two months of 2019, compared with 8,588 this year.

The Volkswagen Golf was the most popular car sold here in February, with 95 sold, while the Ford Fiesta is the top new car in Northern Ireland over the year so far.

However, the Golf was the second most popular over the year so far, with the Ford Focus in third place.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said February's poor performance followed a record low in January. "The first quarter now looks to bring a record low for car sales in Northern Ireland and 2020 as a whole is likely to be the fourth consecutive year of falling car sales," he said.

"The previous two years had been broadly flat and, in fact, 2014 was the last year in which there was a pick-up in new car sales in Northern Ireland."

Of the four UK nations, only Scotland has had a steeper fall than Northern Ireland in the sale of new cars over the year so far, down 17%.

Meanwhile, UK-wide, demand for new cars had fallen 2.9%, the automotive industry body said.

Some 79,594 new cars were registered in February compared with 81,969 during the same month in 2019, according to the SMMT.

The trade association blamed weak consumer confidence and confusion over what fuel technology to buy.

The decline was driven by a 7.4% drop in demand from private consumers.

Sales of diesel and petrol models were down 27.1% and 7.3% year-on-year respectively.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "Another month of decline for the new car market is especially concerning at a time when fleet renewal is so important in the fight against climate change.

"Next week's Budget is the Chancellor's opportunity to reverse this trend by restoring confidence to the market and showing that government is serious about delivering on its environmental ambitions.

"Industry has invested in the technology, with a huge influx of new zero and ultra-low emission models coming to market in 2020, and we now need government to match this with a comprehensive package of incentives and infrastructure spending to accelerate demand."

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