Northern Ireland has worst February car sales in five years
NORTHERN Ireland was the worst performing part of the UK for car sales last month, figures show.
The region experienced a 5.7% fall in February, compared to the same period the previous year, according to an analysis from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
This was more than double the 2.6% decline experienced by the UK as a whole.
A total of 4,029 cars were sold in Northern Ireland in February, compared with 4,272 at the same time last year.
Elsewhere, car sales in England also slumped by 3.3%, while Scotland and Wales experienced growth.
Scotland saw a jump of just over 5%, while sales in Wales increased by 9.3%.
Across the UK, 80,499 cars were driven out of showrooms last month and some 258,000 new cars have been registered in the year to date - a decrease of 5.1% on the same period in 2017.
Registrations of new diesel cars in the UK declined by 23.5%, reflecting the drop in demand since Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a tax hike on new diesel cars from April 1 in November's budget.
All diesels are expected to be subjected to a one-band increase in the first-year vehicle excise duty (VED) rate. This came after the Government unveiled plans to ban the sale of all conventional diesel and petrol cars by 2040.
Topping the list in terms of car brands in Northern Ireland was the Ford Fiesta, with 159 vehicles sold in the last month.
That was followed by the Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai Tucson, tied with 142 sales each.
Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank's chief economist, said the figures represent the "worst February for car sales in five years".
"UK new car sales remain some 6% above their pre-recession peak a decade ago. Conversely, Northern Ireland new car sales are over one-fifth lower than they were a decade ago," he said.
"New car sales in Northern Ireland stalled in 2015 and 2016 before going into decline in 2017.
"Last year's fall in new car sales coincided with a return of the cost of living squeeze. This was characterised by inflation significantly outpacing wage growth.
"The headline sales figures conceal contrasting performance among different brands. Sales of premium brands (such as BMW, Audi and Porsche) had a record year for sales in 2017.
"New car sales are a barometer of consumer confidence and consumer spending.
"Given the ongoing headwinds faced by consumers, it is perhaps not surprising that new car sales are flagging".