August car sales pull ahead of last year's: Figures point to sustained recovery after 190,000 registrations in first week

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The Independent Online
CAR sales in the all-important first week of August were 8 per cent up on the same period last year, suggesting the recovery is being sustained, if not accelerated as the industry had hoped, writes David Bowen.

According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which have not been publicly released, 190,000 cars were registered last week, compared with 176,000 in the same week last year.

More cars are sold in this week, the start of the registration year, than in any other: fewer than 36,000 cars were sold in the whole of July. The industry has been watching to see if the 9.1 per cent rise averaged so far during the year would be sustained.

John Lawson, head of the motor division of the consultants DRI, said he believed total sales for August would be about 400,000. 'That is not the runaway success some people had been hoping for,' he said. He pointed out that there is an extra processing day this month compared with last August, so full- month comparisons should be treated with caution.

However a spokesman for Vauxhall was still forecasting sales of 415,000, 11 per cent up on last year's 374,000. Ford predicts 405,000, but Rover will not commit itself. All these figures suggest that car sales have almost recovered to 1990 levels, when 439,000 cars were sold in August, but that they will be well below the 1989 record of 500,000.

According to the latest figures, Vauxhall is winning business from Ford, the market leader. Its share last week was 17 per cent, compared with 15.5 per cent for the whole of last August, while Ford took just under 21 per cent of the market, against 23.5 per cent. A Ford spokesman said he expected total share for the month to be in line with the 21.7 per cent achieved so far in 1993.

Rover was the other main winner, increasing its share by 1 percentage point to 12 per cent, while Peugeot was up slightly at 8 per cent.

For some companies, however, rising British sales are not compensating for falling sales in Europe. Last week Vauxhall announced it was cutting production in response to a slump in the German market.

(Photograph omitted)

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