Belfast Telegraph

Sales of new cars down 6% with consumer confidence weak despite high job numbers

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said car sales were a key barometer for consumer confidence (stock picture)
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said car sales were a key barometer for consumer confidence (stock picture)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Sales of new cars here fell by 6% to 5,170 in an "uninspiring" June performance - the worst for the month since 2012, according to latest figures.

The report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed Northern Ireland had the steepest fall in car sales of the UK nations in June.

Over the year so far the level of car sales in the province has fallen by just 0.5% year-on-year to 30,837.

The Ford Fiesta was the most popular-selling car in June, with 175 sold, followed by sister model the Ford Kuga and the Volkswagen Golf.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said car sales were a key barometer for consumer confidence.

However, he summed up June's performance as "uninspiring" - especially as the local labour market is the strongest it has ever been, with a record number of employee jobs of 778,240. He added that it had been the weakest June for dealers in seven years.

Mr Ramsey said generally speaking new car sales had been "broadly flat or falling" over the last five years. That contrasted with trends in 2006, when record highs in jobs were accompanied by strong consumer confidence.

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The economist said: "Despite strong wage growth and record labour market performance of the positive variety, consumer confidence in Northern Ireland appears to be conspicuous by its absence.

"Weakness in retail and consumer sensitive sectors (outside of tourism) is expected to be a key theme going forward.

"Brexit uncertainty and deteriorating economic conditions at home and abroad don't help matters either.

"However, the quarter of April to June had been the strongest quarter two in three years, as May this year had enjoyed the healthiest new car sales in 11 years.

"As a result, the second quarter still posted a respectable 2.7% year-on-year rise with an increase of 369 cars and the strongest quarter two in three years."

Across the rest of the UK, car sales in England were down by 5.67% during the month of June, while sales in Scotland fell by 0.22%.

And of the four UK nations, only Wales reported an increase in new car sales, at 5.73%, to reach 7,334.

Belfast Telegraph

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