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Business Comment

Anthony Hilton: Car sales kickstarted by compensation payments


The motor industry said on Thursday that it had sold well over 1 million new cars in the first half of the year, and that overall sales are up on last year by more than 10%.

Surprisingly, given the much-publicised squeeze on family incomes over the past few years and the dearth of consumer spending in the high street, it is private buyers who are leading the charge. Sales to individuals were up 17.1 per cent in the first six months and up 21% in June.

The industry says it is “delivering desirable new products with tangible cost savings from the latest fuel-efficient technology.” Well it would. Warwick Business School, by contrast, says the sales surge is a sign of returning consumer confidence and also of a lack of second-hand cars after several years of depressed sales, so people have to buy new. But the explanation I like best came from Lorna Tilbian of the broker Numis: thousands of households have received payments of several thousand pounds each as the banks begin to settle mis-selling claims.  That, she suggests, is behind the surge in new car sales.