Sales of new vehicles at lowest for decade

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Hard-up households steered clear of splashing out on new cars last year, prompting a 14 per cent slide in private sales, according to industry figures revealed yesterday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' latest figures showed 823,094 sales, well down on the 958,005 registered in 2010, when the "cash for bangers" scrappage scheme was still in operation. While fleet sales improved year on year, sales overall were still down 4.4 per cent to 1.94 million, the SMMT added.

Paul Everitt, its chief executive, expects 2012 will be "tough". He said: "2011 proved to be a challenging year for the UK motor industry. Weak economic growth will make trading conditions tough in 2012. It will be important that the Government delivers on its growth strategy and helps to resolve instability in the eurozone."

Separately, the SMMT revealed that sales of new cars fell by 3.7 per cent in December compared with the year before, leaving the total sales for 2011 at their lowest level in more than a decade.

Last year's sales also represent a 25 per cent decline on their 2003 peak, when 2.58 million new vehicles were registered.