Ford loses hope for August lift

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FORD, Britain's biggest-selling car company, yesterday predicted that there would be virtually no increase in car sales in August, the month that traditionally accounts for up to a quarter of annual registrations.

The warning came as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announced that car sales last month were 8.5 per cent down on July 1991, at 33,051.

A Ford spokesman said the decline in the market in July confirmed that there were no signs yet of an upturn in the economy.

The industry had been hoping for sales of 400,000 this month, to help to revive the depressed car market. But Ford, which commands nearly a quarter of the market, said it expected sales of K-registered cars to reach only 370,000 - virtually unchanged on last August's level of 367,000. The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents most of Britain's car dealerships, was more optimistic, forecasting that August sales would rise by 6-9 per cent to between 390,000 and 400,000.

Lex, one of the country's biggest car distributors, is predicting a 5 per cent increase in August sales while Inchcape, which owns Britain's largest chain of dealerships, said sales so far this month were up on 1991. In each of the past four years August sales, buoyed by the introduction of the new registration prefix, have accounted for between 22 and 23 per cent of annual sales.

For sales to reach 400,000 this month, the market for the year would have to rise to 1.75 million - a 10 per cent increase on 1991. In the first seven months of the year, however, sales were down 4.3 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Ford said the July total was 5,000 less than forecast at the beginning of the month. 'We have had a very strong start to August and many of our dealers are reporting increased sales, but the market is still flat,' Ford added.