New car sales up 15% year-on-year

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NEW CAR sales continued to surge last month, confounding industry worries that the market might falter in the last quarter of the year as the pace of economic recovery slackened.

Registrations increased by 15.5 per cent in October compared with the same month last year, taking sales for the first 10 months of the year to 1.577 million - 12 per cent up on the January-October figure for 1992.

The continued buoyancy of the market will come as a welcome relief to ministers amid conflicting evidence of the strength of economic recovery.

However, the stronger-than- expected rise in sales may lead to fresh claims that manufacturers are forcing the market by offering unprecedented deals on price and by encouraging dealers to pre-register cars.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which publishes the figures, attributed the increase to overseas car companies targeting the UK as Continental markets slide further into recession.

The October sales figure was 126,305 compared with 109,373 in the same month last year. Registrations appear to have picked up strongly in the second half of the month after starting off flat or marginally down on October 1992.

Roger King, director of public affairs at the SMMT, said: 'It is largely a result of some of the most intense marketing efforts ever seen in this country. Britain is still the only market in Europe showing any real growth and Continental manufacturers have stepped up their efforts to make up for lost sales in their own countries.'

Ford once again retained market leadership from Vauxhall with a 21.4 per cent share, while Rover strengthened its position in third place with 13.2 per cent of the market.

Among domestic manufacturers, one of the most impressive performances came from Land Rover, whose UK sales rose by 23 per cent last month. The company is taking on an extra 300 workers on Monday to cope with a 40 per cent increase in production from 1,300 a week at the start of the year to 1,820 a week as from this month.