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Northern Ireland puts brake on cars sales slump with Hyundai most popular

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland has avoided the massive overall slump in new car purchases in the UK, where sales have plummeted more than 11%.

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed almost no change to the market in Northern Ireland year-on-year, with 3,134 cars sold in November 2017.

But the UK as a whole saw new car sales falling by more than 20,000 as a whole, down 11.2%.

Scotland took the biggest hit, with sales collapsing by almost a quarter - falling from 15,278 to 11,585 in November.

In Northern Ireland, the Hyundai Tucson was the best selling car, with 132 sold.

That was followed closely by the Ford Fiesta on 125 and Volkswagen Golf on 105 units.

Elsewhere, England and Wales suffered a fall of around 10% each.

It's the eighth month new car sales have fallen right across the UK.

The SMMT said the fall in sales was fuelled by a drop in demand for diesel cars.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said "new car sales have been on the slide in the UK in 2017".

"November marked the eighth successive year-on-year fall, with UK sales down 11%. England, Scotland and Wales posted double-digit declines last month, with Scotland recording the sharpest fall," he added.

He explained the falls "conceal shifting patterns of demand between fuel types". "Sales of petrol cars continue to grow, up 5% year-on-year, while diesel sales plummeted by 31%," he said.

"Meanwhile the alternative fuelled vehicles (AFV) sector saw sales volume surge by one-third in November.

"On the face of it, the Northern Ireland market fared relatively well last month.

"November and December are typically the quietest months for new car showrooms, however, Northern Ireland dealers saw their seven-month sequence of falling sales pause in November, albeit with the smallest of gains, up 0.1%, or just an additional four cars.

"Nevertheless, new car registrations in the year to November are 5% below the corresponding period in 2016.

"This is in line with the UK but compares favourably with Scotland. It is worth noting that the fall in new car sales (2008 -2012) was steeper in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK and the subsequent recovery has been significantly weaker."

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said an "eighth month of decline in the new car market is a major concern, with falling business and consumer confidence exacerbated by ongoing anti-diesel messages from government".

"Diesel remains the right choice for many drivers, not least because of its fuel economy and lower Co2 emissions. The decision to tax the latest low emission diesels is a step backwards and will only discourage drivers from trading in their older, more polluting cars," he added.

"Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality, penalising the latest, cleanest diesels is counterproductive and will have detrimental environmental and economic consequences."

Figures for the year-to-date for Northern Ireland show the Volkswagen Golf was the best selling car, with 1,903 vehicles powering out of showrooms.

That was followed by the Hyundai Tucson, with 1,690 sold.

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