New car sales in the north accelerate amid UK decline

Demand for newly registered models in April increased by almost 4 per cent on the previous year
Gareth McKeown and PA

NEW car sales in the north accelerated last month against an overall UK reverse, new figures show.

The latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows demand for newly registered models in April increased by almost 4 per cent (3.92 per cent) on the previous year from 3,907 to 4,060 vehicles.

This is compared to a 3.98 per cent decline in the UK market as a whole, as new vehicle registrations fell by almost 7,000 from 167,260 to 160,606 - the second worst April performance since 2012.

In the year to date new car sales in Northern Ireland remain below 2018 levels, with the 20,736 registrations in the last four months a 1.76 per cent decline on the previous year (21,107).

It remains the weakest start to a year since 2013 and 27 per cent below the peak recorded in 2007.

Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey expects the trend in falling new car sales to continue.

"Despite an easing in inflationary pressures and wage growth exceeding the rate of inflation, the improvements in consumers’ disposable incomes are marginal. Consumer confidence remains in short supply and will continue to weigh on big-ticket discretionary purchases in 2019," he said

The Ford Kuga was the most popular vehicle in the north last month according to the figures, accounting for 162 registrations, followed by the Hyundai Tucson (131) and Citroen C3 (115).

The Volkswagen Golf is the most popular new vehicle in Northern Ireland in 2019 so far (643 registrations) and shares the top three with the Ford models, the Kuga (622) and Fiesta (515).

In the overall UK market sales petrol and diesel models dropped by 3.0 per cent and 9.4 per cent year-on-year respectively last month.

Meanwhile demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, such as hybrids and pure electrics, increased by 12.7 per cent to take a market share of 6.4 per cent.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes said it is encouraging to see a shift toward electric vehicles, but more work must be done.

"While it's great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero," he said.

"Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need.

"We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers.

"This includes investment in infrastructure and long term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible."

Government grants for new low-emission cars were slashed in October last year, meaning hybrid models are no longer eligible for the scheme.

Motoring groups have warned that decision will leave the UK struggling to meet targets to reduce vehicle emissions.

A report by the Committee on Climate Change published last week warned that the proposed 2040 date for the phasing-out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans is too late, and recommended bringing it forward to 2030, or at the latest 2035.

April's top selling cars in Northern Ireland were:

1 Ford Kuga

2 Hyundai Tucson

3 Citroen C3

4 Volkswagen Golf

5 Nissan Qashqai

6 Volkswagen Tiguan

7 Ford Fiesta

8 Citroen C3 Aircross

9 Ford Focus

10 Kia Sportage

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