Imports in front as car sales surge

The continuing boom in car imports into the UK fuelled a strong increase in sales last month, though Ford's slice of the crucial British market fell again, manufacturers will reveal this week.

Early indications from industry sources suggest more than 200,000 cars were registered in January, a rise of some 4.5 per cent on the same month in 1996, making it the strongest January since 1990. The official statistics will be released on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

However, January was a bad month for traditional high-selling "British" makes. Ford's share is thought to have slid alarmingly to 19 per cent, down from 21.7 per cent in January the previous year. Rover managed just 9.6 per cent of the UK market, more than 1 percentage point down.

One industry expert said: "January will be a real test of Ford's new policy of not distorting the market by registering large numbers of cars to dealers in the last couple of days of each month. If they end up with figures as bad as this it'll prove they've given up buying market share."

The winners in the sales league last month were imported makes such as Volkswagen, which is currently enjoying an extraordinary surge in popularity in Britain, along with Renault and Fiat. Last year imports accounted for 62 per cent of the UK market, up from 58.9 per cent in 1995.

The statistics make bleak reading for Ford unions as workers prepare to vote in strike ballots called over the company's plans to slash 1,300 jobs at its Halewood plant on Merseyside. Union officials from across Ford's European empire meet in Brussels today to discuss the cutbacks at the start of a week of frantic lobbying.

Tony Woodley, national organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union, said: "We are hoping our European colleagues will come out with a common position and will offer to share some of the grief. They've done it before." On Thursday Ford's British unions will meet Jac Nasser, head of the group's European operations, which lost a total of pounds 180m last year.

Mr Woodley will also discuss the cutbacks with Greg Knight, the Industry Minister, this week in the hope that the Government may agree to Ford's request for an estimated pounds 70m in state subsidies to guarantee Halewood's long-term future. The issue has become politically charged as the main parties campaign in the Wirral South by-election.

Yesterday Ford dismissed speculation that it was about to announce the closure of another British plant. Unions believe the Southampton factory, which makes Transit vans, may ultimately face the same fate as Halewood, though no final decisions have been taken by management.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit