January car sales in UK surge 20% to four-year high

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The Independent Online
NEW CAR sales have begun the year in racing form with registrations in January 20 per cent up on the same month last year.

A total of 198,525 cars were sold last month - the highest January total for four years - according to figures released yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Although the figure is still well short of the record 220,000 sales achieved in January 1989, it demonstrates that the car market is firmly on the road to recovery after its biggest slump since the war.

The buoyant level of domestic sales is also compensating UK manufacturers for the continuing recession in continental export markets, where demand is forecast to remain flat or, at best, to rise 1-2 per cent this year.

UK sales last year rose 11 per cent to 1.78 million and industry forecasts point to a market this year of 1.85-1.88 million.

The January figures show Ford retained market leadership with 24.5 per cent. Vauxhall, the General Motors subsidiary, was in second place with a 17.6 per cent share.

Rover, taken over this week for pounds 800m by the German car maker BMW, sold just under 25,000 cars, giving it a market share of 12.5 per cent compared with 13.6 per cent in January 1993. BMW increased its share marginally to 2.45 per cent with 4,869 registrations.

Ernie Thompson, SMMT chief executive, said: 'This improved performance in the home market goes some way to compensate for the losses of exports to Europe where all major markets continue to be affected by deep recession.'