Car sales accelerate to reach 10-year high

The Audi A3 Sportback.
The Audi A3 Sportback.
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British new car registrations had their strongest September in 10 years, boosted by confidence in the economic recovery, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said yesterday.

Sales rose by 5.6 per cent compared with September last year to hit 425,861 new car units, the 31st consecutive month of growth, industry body the SMMT said.

Figures are typically strong in March and September when Britain introduces new registration plates, with the SMMT saying the new series was one of several factors to push up figures.

Britain is on track for a total of 2.45 million new car registrations in 2014, which would be the highest level recorded since 2004.

Cheap finance, helped by record-low interest rates, has pushed up car sales since the 2008-09 financial crisis which saw levels nose-dive and the Government intervene to support the industry with a scrappage scheme.

Up to 80 per cent of new-car purchases are now made on credit with many customers effectively renting a new car – typically for three years – before trading it in for a new model using a scheme known as a personal contract plan (PCP).

But there are signs Britain’s buoyant car market is beginning to cool with year-on-year sales growing by 18 per cent in March, the last time new registration plates were brought in, which was three times as much as September’s more moderate rate of growth.

Car sales were one of the first areas of British consumer demand to recover after the economic downturn.

Ford’s Fiesta supermini held on as Britain’s top selling car followed by its mid-sized Focus model and the Vauxhall Corsa.

UK consumer confidence has recovered in recent months, after taking a prolonged battering during the recession.