The motor industry’s trade body, the SMMT, has called on the Government to bolster consumer confidence after latest figures showed that new car registrations have tumbled for their fifth consecutive month.
Registrations for September, traditionally a key month for buying cars because of the introduction of new number plates, collapsed 21.2pc year-on-year. The SMMT’s chief executive, Paul Everitt, warned that it could be another 12 months before the market stabilises.
“Government action is now needed to restore consumer confidence and boost demand in the real economy,” Mr Everitt said. “The Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report should set out a package of measures to boost demand for new fuel efficient cars and scrap plans for unfair increases in vehicle excise duty.”
The total number of new car registrations in September was 330,295, with all sales sectors – private, company, and fleet – seeing a drop. Demand from private buyers has fallen every month this year so far. The industry said that the September figure was particularly worrying because the month typically accounts for at least 17pc of the annual total.
New cars sales have fallen by 7.5pc over the year to date to just under 1.8 million, while in the last three months sales have plunged by 18.8pc. Mr Everitt said the September drop represented “the most difficult economic conditions the industry has faced in 17 years”.
The SMMT said a further drop of 20pc in new car sales in the final quarter of the year would leave full-year figures at just over two million, the lowest since 1996.
The Vauxhall Corsa was the best-selling car for the second successive month at 15,647, followed by the Fiesta, Astra, Focus and Golf. Sales of diesel cars fell by more than 15pc last month to 141,306, a slight increase on market share from 39pc to 42pc of the total.
The downturn is already affecting the industry, with Ford introducing a four-day week until the end of the year at its Transit van plant in Southampton and other companies, including Jaguar Land Rover, cutting production.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “Jobs are being lost across British industry virtually every day.”
Experts predicted that the pain being felt by motor dealerships will be strong. Keith Parry, head of motor trade at Barclays Commercial Bank, said: “Many dealers will be facing a challenging winter.”