Ford and Jaguar gear up as UK car sales wane

Ford launched a fresh assault on the European market and Jaguar Land Rover launched its latest Range Rover yesterday – just as figures showed waning demand for new cars among British buyers.

Ford, which employs 15,000 people in the UK at major sites including Dagenham in east London and Southampton, unveiled 15 new or remodelled cars and vehicles for the European market that it will launch over five years to revive sales.

The suite of new launches will also see its Mustang – driven by Steve McQueen in the legendary car chase through the streets of San Francisco in the film Bullitt – sold in Europe for the first time.

Ford's European boss, Stephen Odell, is increasing the company's investment in Europe, but warned that said improvements in the "brutal" European car market are not expected anytime soon.

His comments came as Jaguar Land Rover – owned by Indian congomerate Tata – launched its new Range Rover in London last night, while Honda has signalled a £267m investment in its Swindon factories to build a new version of two of its models.

But the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed a near-stagnation in new car sales during August. They were up just 0.1 per cent to 59,433 as buyers hung on for the new registration plates this month. September accounts for 17 per cent of the annual total and is traditionally the second-biggest month for sales after March.

The SMMT's chief executive, Paul Everitt, said: "The economic outlook remains challenging, but vehicle manufacturers and dealers are working hard to sustain demand and deliver great value products and services."

IHS Global Insight's Howard Archer added: "The latest data on car sales shows a loss of momentum, although it needs to be borne in mind that August is always a very quiet month for car sales."