Sales of new cars in Northern Ireland fall 8% compared to last year
New car sales in Northern Ireland plummeted last month compared to August last year, it has emerged.
The number of new cars sold in Northern Ireland last month dropped to 3,394 - down more than 8% compared to August last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The only other part of the UK which experienced a reduction in new car sales last month was England, which saw figures drop by 1.6%.
At the same time, new car sales this year up to August to date have also fallen - from 38,407 last year to 37,989 this year.
However, the figures have also revealed that the Northern Ireland new car market experienced the smallest drop in sales this year to date compared to the rest of the UK.
Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said the statistics show that consumer confidence remains weak and it is likely to be affected by the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
"New car sales are traditionally viewed as a key barometer of consumer confidence," he said.
"Despite the labour market being the strongest it has ever been, consumer confidence remains weak.
"Last month saw a notable fall of 307 vehicles on the corresponding month in 2018. Indeed, August 2019 represented the weakest August in seven years.
"Taking a look over the longer-term reveals a familiar trend - new car sales in Northern Ireland have been broadly flat or falling for the last five years.
"Eight months through 2019, local dealers have notched up 37,989 new car sales.
"This is down marginally on the corresponding period last year and marks the weakest January-to-August sales volumes in six years.
"By comparison, the first eight months of 2006 and 2007 saw 49,328 and 51,866 new cars sold.
"Currently, new car sales in Northern Ireland over the last 12 months are running at just over three-quarters of 2007 levels."
Mr Ramsey said that record highs in employment and lows in unemployment in 2006/07 were accompanied by robust consumer confidence.
He continued: "Today, however, this is not the case. Despite strong wage growth and record labour market performance of the positive variety, consumer confidence appears to be lacking.
"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 provide additional headwinds."
The figures from SMMT, one of the largest and most influential trade associations in the UK, also revealed that Ford Fiesta was the UK's most popular car last month, as well as the year to date.
In Northern Ireland last month, Ford sold 108 Ford Fiestas. The company also held joint second spot, selling 99 Kugas, while 99 Volkswagen Tiguans were also sold.