Car makers stay cautious despite 11% rise in sales

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CAR CHIEFS warned last night of a tough road ahead even though new car sales have ended the year 11-12 per cent up on 1992 at just under 1.78 million.

According to industry estimates, 184,000 more cars were sold in 1993 than last year, when registrations reached 1.59 million.

Sales would have been higher but for a 7-9 per cent drop in December compared with the same month in 1992 - the first year-on- year decline in sales since May.

Despite the improved performance, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders sounded a note of caution. Ernie Thompson, chief executive, warned of another difficult year for the UK motor industry. Demand remained depressed in Continental markets while the UK economic recovery still had some way to go, he said.

The SMMT is forecasting a modest rise in sales in 1994 to 1.86 million, but this is 20 per cent down on the peak year of 1989 when registrations reached 2.3 million.

Ford retained market leadership this year with a 22 per cent share, but Vauxhall narrowed the gap in second place with its market share topping 17 per cent for the first time, aided by strong demand for the Corsa and Astra.

Production at Land Rover's Solihull plant in the West Midlands rose 19 per cent this year to 68,000 - the second-best year in its history - while Jaguar, the luxury car maker owned by Ford, increased output by nearly half to just under 30,000.