When the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announced the figures, it said the 63,225 total was the lowest August result since 1966.
That prompted front page headlines nationally.
But some motor retailers have questioned whether this has knocked consumer confidence further. August was historically the strongest month until the industry changed in 2001 to two plate-changes each March and September, which relegated August to one of the weakest months for sales.
One dealer wrote on www.am-online.com/forum: “Yes August registrations are 19% down on August last year but August accounts only for about 3% of total yearly sales. It’s a meaningless month, as July used to be.
“It’s what happens this month that matters. Now if September is 20% down or there are less registrations than in September 1966, then we really are up the creak without a paddle.”
The SMMT said it regularly compares one month’s performance with the last best or worst.
“Our motive was to generate discussion around the economic situation and lack of consumer confidence, and while we always try and accentuate the positive, if the market is performing weakly, we have to report it,” a spokesman said.
He suggested that the fact that August used to be the major month served to highlight the situation that motor retail is facing.
“It was not intended to make a special case for the auto industry being hard done by – just that we are one of many sectors feeling the effects of the credit crunch and high fuel costs.”