North's new car registrations slump, SMMT figures show

A report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has shown that 6,134 new cars were registered in the north last month
Andrew Madden

NEW car sales in Northern Ireland fell by nearly one per cent in January compared to the same month last year, according to industry figures.

A report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has shown that 6,134 new cars were registered in the north last month, a 0.9 per cent drop from January 2016.

Elsewhere in the UK, the industry saw growth – with England leading the way with an increase of more than 3 per cent in registrations year-on-year. Wales saw a 0.9 per cent rise, followed by Scotland at 0.5 per cent.

In January, a total of 174,099 new cars were registered across the UK, compared with 169,245 in the same month the previous year.

SMMT warned however, that growth is expected to slow in the coming months and the many external factors that lie ahead could potentially affect the market.

With Brexit set to be triggered in March, inflation and economic repercussions of the Trump presidency still unclear, the automotive industry is set to be tested in 2017.

The report also found that, diesel registrations were down by more than 4 per cent; however demand for petrol cars increased by nearly nine per cent.

The rise of electric, or "alternatively-fuelled", vehicles also continued to surge forward, with the market growing by almost 20 per cent to take a record 4.2 per cent market share.

Ford and Volkswagen were among the most popular manufacturers across the UK, with each holding a healthy share in the top ten new car registrations.

In the north, the Volkswagen Golf was the most popular model in January with 262 new registrations, followed closely by the Ford Fiesta with 252.

Looking at the wider picture, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the year had got off to a good start, helped along by a new range of models with high levels of safety and efficiency.

"It's encouraging to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefitting from this positive growth, reaching a record market share,” he added.

"After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges."

The automotive industry is an integral market within the UK economy, accounting for more than £71.6 billion in turnover and £18.9bn in value added. It currently employs an estimated 169,000 workers directly in manufacturing and 814,000 across the wider automotive industry.

It also accounts for 12 per cent of total UK export of goods and invests £2.5bn each year in automotive R&D.

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