Poor weather in August might have dampened high street clothes sales but it seems to have triggered a stampede into car showrooms with a near-10% increase in monthly vehicle sales.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said new car registrations rose by 9.6% year-on-year to 79,060 vehicles with the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf models leading the way.
It extended the record run of rising sales to a 42nd month and brought the number of new registrations for the year so far to 1.6m, with industry officials predicting more growth to come.
There was also very strong demand for “alternatively-fuelled vehicles” which include plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. Sales were up by 52% although this type of car still only represents 2.4% of the overall market.
There was an even bigger jump in sales of commercial vehicles such as vans and lorries, with registrations increasing by 15% to 17,350, all of this at a time when the European and global markets are quite flat.
“August’s strong performance has again been driven by attractive finance deals and a diverse range of technologically advanced models,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT.
“Britain’s budget-conscious buyers are taking advantage of low regular monthly payments that provide certainty and affordability.”
The SMMT has previously said it expects full-year new car sales to rise nearly 4% compared with last year. In the first eight months of the year, sales were up by 6.7% but the increases are expected to taper off in the new year.
Some of the sales growth over the three and a half years has come because motorists held off from buying such big-ticket items for a long period following the financial crash of 2008.
But much has also come from businesses buying either individual cars or whole batches of vehicles. Last month there was a 12% rise in fleet sales and a 12% rise in business transactions.
David Raistrick, a manufacturing expert at the consultancy Deloitte, said the overall growth in sales wasahead of expectations. “August registrations have now exceeded the levels achieved in 2007 (77,000). This level has not been reached in the intervening years, even with the assistance of the government scrappage scheme in 2009.”
It has also provided a fillip for Britain’s strong motor manufacturing industry. Earlier this week Nissan announced plans to invest a further £100m in its Sunderland plant to build the next generation of its Juke crossover car.
The decision will guarantee 6,700 jobs at the plant and support a further 27,000 positions in the supply chain, the Japanese company said. Experts said it justified government support over 20 years for foreign investors establishing plants in this country.
In March, Honda revealed plans to inject £200m into its factory in Swindon, while the London Taxi Company said it would create 1,000 new jobs with £250m of spending on ultra low-emission taxis.
The Ford Fiesta was the top-selling car in August (4,753), followed by the Ford Focus (2,673), VW Golf (2,456), Vauxhall Corsa (2,154) and VW Polo (1,911).
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