Car sales to reach 2 million despite dip

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The Independent Online
New car sales slipped unexpectedly into reverse last month but motor industry officials said they still expected the UK market to hit 2 million this year for the first time since 1990.

A total of 138,059 cars were registered in September, 1.4 per cent down on the same month last year, as demand from private buyers fell sharply following the August rush. Retail sales in September were down by 6.2 per cent.

Sales for the first nine months of the year are running at 1,657,234 - four per cent up on 1995. Ford remained the market leader with an 18 per cent share but Rover's share slipped below 10 per cent. Imports accounted for 66 per cent of sales.

Ernie Thompson, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the decline in private car sales was "disappointing".

The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents the bulk of the country's car dealers, said the September fall in sales did not alter its forecast that sales this year would hit the two million mark.

However, Alan Pulham, the federation's franchise director, said he was concerned about the impact on dealer profitability. Private buyers pay higher prices than fleet customers and generate bigger margins for dealers. Among the best-performing importers was Volkswagen which increased its share of the market from 5.6 per cent in September last year to 6.6 per cent.