Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

UK new car sales in sharp decline

Car component manufacturer Colin Sarson says jobs have been lost

Sales of new cars in the UK fell in October at their fastest rate for 17 years, industry figures have shown.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed new car sales were 128,352 in October, down 23% from a year ago.

Car sales, an indicator of economic confidence, have been falling victim to the wider downturn.

The SMMT said 1.92 million new cars had been sold so far this year, down 8.7% on the same period in 2007.

Action is needed to help restore consumer confidence and encourage buyers back to the showrooms
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive

The SMMT has also updated its sales forecast for 2008 as a whole down to 2.15 million vehicles.

The SMMT figures come as it was announced that production of the Mini car in the UK would be cut back.

Staff at factories in Oxford and Swindon have had their two-week Christmas shutdown extended to four weeks this year.

Mini sales during October were down 40% compared with a year ago - with 1,886 vehicles sold compared with 3,150 in October 2007.

"October has proved another difficult month for the UK motor industry and action is needed to help restore consumer confidence and encourage buyers back to the showrooms," said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt.

"Cuts in interest rates that are swiftly passed on to consumers, scrapping planned increases in vehicle excise duty and maintaining public expenditure on new vehicles are essential parts of the package required by industry."

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A flight over the Sheerness car import dock in Kent

He added: "There is also a clear role for European action to support continued investment in new, lower carbon vehicle technologies."

Buying delayed

The sales fall is the worst decline since a 31% year-on-year drop in June 1991, and means new car registrations have fallen in all but two months of 2008.

Sales of private cars fell nearly 29% in October, with business sales down 43.6% and fleet sales declining by 16.3%.

The Vauxhall Corsa was the best-selling car during the month, with the Ford Focus the best-selling car for the period January to October 2008.

Luxury car companies were among the worst hit for sales in the month.

The SMMT has previously said that it believes the market may not stabilise before the third quarter of next year.

Speaking before the October figures were released, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive David Smith said people were putting off buying decisions until they had "more confidence about which way the economy is going".

Earlier this week, Jaguar Land Rover said a voluntary redundancy scheme was to be extended to hundreds of workers.

After the release of the latest SMMT figures Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "These figures demonstrate that the recession is well and truly with us and is now taking hold."



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