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Huge slump in new Northern Ireland car sales will get worse due to lockdown, industry warned

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A huge 56% slump in new car sales here will "undoubtedly see even greater decline" as Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown continues

A huge 56% slump in new car sales here will "undoubtedly see even greater decline" as Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown continues

A huge 56% slump in new car sales here will "undoubtedly see even greater decline" as Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown continues

A huge 56% slump in new car sales here will "undoubtedly see even greater decline" as Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown continues.

Around 4,000 fewer vehicles powered out of showrooms in March, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Overall, the UK saw a 44% decline in sales, with Scotland seeing a 49% drop, followed by Wales, which suffered a reduction of 34%. That's according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

In Northern Ireland, the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus topped the list for new car sales, with 100 vehicles each sold, followed by 79 Volkswagen Golfs, while the Hyundai Tucson shifted 78 units.

"April will undoubtedly see even greater declines with the lockdown expected to be in force for the entire month and beyond," Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, said.

"We can get an idea of the scale of declines under a full lockdown by looking at France and Italy. The latter introduced its lockdown on March 9, with new car sales plunging 85% year-on-year last month.

"France's lockdown came later than Italy's and its motor industry recorded a 72% year-on-year decline in new car sales in March.

"All economies, Northern Ireland included, will do well to record any sales whatsoever in April. Other sectors such as the hospitality industry have witnessed similar declines in sales activity with deeper falls to come in April and beyond."

Mr Ramsey said "it is worth remembering that the Northern Ireland economy and consumer spending/confidence were not in a good place before the Covid-19 virus struck".

"So, 2020 was already going nowhere fast as far as new car sales were concerned," he said. "However, the pandemic has accelerated this decline to a pace not witnessed in Northern Ireland previously. The Government lockdown has seen many sectors impacted, including car dealers.

"Local dealers posted a 56% year-on-year decline in March which compares with a 44% decline for the UK as a whole. As a result, Q1 marks the lowest level of new car sales since Q4 2008. Taking the last 12 months of sales, Northern Ireland dealers have sold 46,533 new cars."

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise.

"Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the biannual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month. We should not, however, draw long-term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realisation of what happens when economies grind to a halt.

"How long the market remains stalled is uncertain, but it will reopen and the products will be there.

"In the meantime, we will continue to work with government to do all we can to ensure the thousands of people employed in this sector are ready for work and Britain gets back on the move."

Belfast Telegraph