Car sales continue recovery

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CAR SALES staged a further modest recovery last month, with November registrations up by 6.3 per cent on their level a year ago, writes Michael Harrison.

The increase in sales to 106,902 leaves registrations for the first 11 months of the year just 1.33 per cent down on the same period in 1991 at 1,513,698.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which published the figures, welcomed the increase and said that the full benefit of the abolition of special car tax in the Autumn Statement had yet to be felt.

A spokesman added that a slow upturn in car sales was now discernible. Since April, registrations have risen on a year-on-year basis in all but two months. October's increase was 8.1 per cent.

However, sales for the year are unlikely to surpass last year's depressed figure of 1.59 million - a third down on three years ago.

Further job losses and short-time working are also on the horizon, with Ford expected to cut its UK workforce by a further 3,000 and Vauxhall poised to go to a shorter working week at its Luton plant.

Sir Hal Miller, chief executive of the SMMT, said: 'These figures reflect a continuing modest but welcome increase in UK sales with the full benefit of the abolition of special car tax still to work through.'

Ford's market leadership narrowed in November to 19 per cent of total sales. Vauxhall took 17 per cent of the market and Rover increased its share to 16.8 per cent from 15.33 per cent a year earlier.

The modest recovery in car sales in recent months is put down to an increase in purchases by fleet operators, who have begun to replace company cars in growing numbers. Private sales remain depressed, however, with individual buyers reluctant to re-enter the market given rising unemployment and falling house prices.

(Graph omitted)