New car sales in north slump 29 per cent after changes to vehicle excise duty

Sales of new cars were down 29 per cent in Northern Ireland in April according to the SMMT
Gary McDonald Business Editor

NEW car sales in Northern Ireland plunged by nearly a third last month as the market felt the effect of sweeping tax changes, industry figures show.

Just 3,303 new cars were registered in the north in April, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

That was a 29.1 per cent decline on the April 2016 figure of 4,658.

And in the year to date, only 22,265 new models have left showrooms in Northern Ireland - more than 5 per cent fewer than in the first four months of last year (23,465 cars).

Many buyers brought forward purchases to March, ahead of new vehicle excise duty (VED) rates coming into force on April 1, according to the trade body.

All new cars, except for those with zero emissions, are now subject to an annual flat rate charge.

RAC research found the vast majority of drivers buying new cars are paying significantly more following the change.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower.

"It's important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car.

"We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases."

Despite the substantial monthly decline, registrations in the UK for the first four months of the year were up 1 per cent on 2016 at 969,728.

In Northern Ireland the Hyundai Tucson was the top seller in April, narrowly pipping the Ford Focus and Nissan Qashqai, with the Kia Sportage and Ford Kuga completing the top five.

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