Northern Ireland's new car showrooms record weakest October in seven years

A total of 116 new Ford Kugas were registered in the north during October, making it the most popular choice for new buyers
Ryan McAleer

THE number of new cars registered in the north during October fell by almost 17 per cent on last year, new industry data has revealed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the 3,168 new cars that rolled out of showrooms here last month was 642 fewer than in October 2018.

SUVs and small hatchbacks continue to be the most popular choices for new car buyers here, with Ford's Kuga, Fiesta and Focus; Hyundai's Tucson and Nissan's Qashqai dominating sales.

But economist Richard Ramsey said last month marked the weakest October for new car sales in seven years, putting Northern Ireland well below the average decline seen across the UK.

A total of 46,297 new cars were registered here in the first ten months of the year, almost 1,300 cars (2.7 per cent) below the same period last year.

“The latest figures continue the downward trend for 2019 and follow the weakest September for sales in 13 years,” said Mr Ramsey.

“We have already seen a variety of indicators pointing to a lack of consumer confidence in Northern Ireland. These include the notable falls in retail sales activity within Ulster Bank's Northern Ireland PMI and last week's RICS and Ulster Bank commercial property market survey. The latter highlighted demand for retail property in Q3 was the weakest since 2008.

“With economic conditions deteriorating markedly in recent months the outlook for consumer sensitive sectors is set to weaken too. 2020 could well see new car sales fall below the 50,000 mark for the first time since 2012.”

Graeme Maclaughlin from Barclays Corporate Banking said October had been another disappointing month for the new car industry.

“It's hardly surprising, with consumers preferring to wait and see how the economic and political picture develops before committing to major purchases.”

He said while the increase in sales of greener vehicles was encouraging, it would be a mistake for the industry to be too self-congratulatory.

“Despite the record market share, it's from a low base with fewer than one in ten new vehicles alternatively fuelled, which frankly isn't good enough,” he said.

“We should remember that new petrol and diesel models are also becoming more sustainable, but if we're going to properly clean up our roads, the share of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) has to increase at an even faster rate.

“Infrastructure is the big issue, with doubts lingering among drivers that the logistics are fully in place to make electric vehicles as reliable and hassle-free as their existing car.”

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