Motor industry raises car sales forecast despite fall in July

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The Independent Online

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said yesterday it had increased its forecast for UK new car registrations this year by 25,000 to 2.225 million.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said yesterday it had increased its forecast for UK new car registrations this year by 25,000 to 2.225 million.

"The new car market is healthy... and, now that uncertainty has been removed on the pricing issue, the year ahead looks very bright," said the SMMT's chief executive, Christopher Macgowan.

Figures released by the society yesterday showed that private buyers had continued to steer clear of car showrooms in July ahead of the publication earlier this week of the Government's report on car prices.

A total of 156,588 new cars were sold last month, 6.4 per cent down from the record of July 1999. Purchases by private motorists fell 14.4 per cent, but total new car sales so far this year are 1.1 per cent up on the first seven months of 1999. "July is beginning to settle into a smoother pattern under the new registration system, after a meteoric rise last year," said Mr Macgowan.

Ford headed the bestseller list in July, although its sales of 27,899 were down 13.95 per cent on the same month last year. Rover had another poor month, with sales down by almost 17 per cent compared with last July. Sales by BMW slipped 33.36 per cent.

On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers, published final plans to get UK car buyers a better deal, which are scheduled to come into force on 1 September. A Competition Commission report in April found car prices were up to 12 per cent higher in Britain than in other European Union states.

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