Business

Car sales increase in April - but upwards drive might stall

A Volkswagen Passat being tested for its exhaust emissions - but sales of the brand are down again
Gary McDonald Business Editor

New car sales in Northern Ireland bucked the UK-wide trend by growing at nearly 5 per cent in April compared with the same month last year, according to industry figures.

Some 4,658 cars were registered last month against 4,447 in April 2015, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

April's performance follows a good March too, and overall sales to date in the north this year, at 23,465, are 3.2 per cent ahead of where they were at the same time last year.

Households have been benefiting from falling food and petrol prices, wage rises, and low interest rates, and this appears to be feeding through into Northern Ireland's new car sales figures.

However, sales were generally disappointing in 2015 and remained at odds with the wider recovery in the economy, so the growth is coming from a lower base than in Britain.

And despite the encouraging April numbers, with fuel prices starting to edge back upwards and continuing uncertainty around areas like the EU referendum, this could act to dampen consumer sentiment.

On the figures for the UK as a whole, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "After such a strong March, April's steadier performance was to be anticipated and is in line with our expectations for the year.

"Consumer confidence remains high as buyers continue to capitalise on attractive finance deals, although this could be affected by political and economic uncertainty in the coming months."

Year-on-year Volkswagen car sales suffered a 9.7 per cent slide as the German manufacturer continued to suffer as a result of the diesel emissions scandal.

The brand had 16,877 registrations in April, compared to 18,690 in the same month in 2015.

Its year-to-date sales for 2016 are 6 per cent down on the same point last year.

Volkswagen Group admitted last September that 482,000 of its diesel vehicles in the US were fitted with defeat device software to switch engines to a cleaner mode when they were being tested for emissions.

The Wolfsburg-based manufacturer announced that 11 million vehicles were affected worldwide - including almost 1.2 million in the UK.

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