SALES of new cars are forecast to continue to plunge over the next year after manufacturers announced the worst August figures for 42 years.
UK registrations fell last month by nearly 19 per cent on a year ago as drivers postponed buying new cars because of fears over the economy. The fall in Scotland was even more marked, with sales down 21 per cent to 4,578 and traders predicting a "ADVERTISEMENT disappointing" September, when new number plates usually boost sales.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK industry, said it had compared sales with 1966 to back its call for the government to "kick-start consumer confidence". A total of 63,225 new cars were registered last month compared to 52,942 in August 1966.
However, between 1967 and 1998, new number plates were issued in August, which made it the peak month for car sales. Since 1999, the plate change has been in September and March, making August one of the quietest sales months. Paul Everitt, the SMMT's chief executive, said: "Industry is encouraged by the growing interest in lower carbon cars, but is concerned by the reluctance of consumers to commit to major purchases. There is a clear need for sustained action by government to boost the economy and restore confidence."
The SMMT predicts that new car sales will fall to 2.16 million next year compared to 2.35 million currently and some 2.6 million in 2004. Douglas Robertson, the chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said the lack of an interest rate cut yesterday made for a gloomy outlook. He said: "Whilst September will give new car sales a boost, we suspect that there will be more disappointment for us as the credit squeeze tightens and the economy slows down." However, green campaigners argued the news should spur a boost for public transport.
Richard George, the roads and climate campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "These figures may be causing motor manufacturers sleepless nights, but they're a golden opportunity for a government which has to reduce our carbon footprint. "Instead of pandering to the motoring lobby, the government should give people real travel choices and help communities all over Scotland blighted by traffic noise and pollution."
The top selling cars for August 42 years ago and now are:
1966 1. Austin 1100 2. Ford Cortina 3. Mini
2008 1. Vauxhall Corsa (3,527) 2. Ford Focus (2,933) 3. Vauxhall Astra (2,535)
Source: The Scotsman