UK car sales plummet in 2011

UK car sales have slumped to their lowest level since the mid-1990s. Total new registrations dropped to 1.94m in 2011 as hard-up consumers avoided the forecourts - and large, fast-depreciating commitments. Compare this figure with 2.03m for 2010 when sales were fuelled by the car scrappage scheme. December 2011 sales also saw a sharp fall - down 3.7%.

Irish and Welsh sales woes

Paul Everitt, chief exec of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders was realistic: "With this whole concept of rebalancing the economy, this is what you would expect to see," he commented. "Consumer demand is weaker but at the same time we are seeing a strong performance in some key segments of the manufacturing economy."

The new car sales downturn was worst in Northern Ireland where sales slumped almost 12%. Welsh sales also were hit hard, down 9.9% while English sales slipped 3.9%. However registrations in 2011 were broadly supported by fleet sales.

Well-off unaffected

Diesel and alternatively-fuelled cars both took record shares of the market in 2011, with diesel volumes surpassing petrol volumes for the first time, said the SMMT. The Ford Fiesta was the best selling new car in 2011, with the VW Golf the best selling diesel model.

While the supermini segment sector almost unchanged on 2010 at 36.3% of the total market, the SMMT said, exec, luxury and dual purpose segments all recorded growth in registrations in 2011. A sign that for those who have the cash, a new car purchase isn't an issue.

What is interesting is how fuel-efficient (and less polluting) cars have become in recent years. See table below. The average new car will do more than 50mpg and emit under 140g of CO2 per km. Very different from the start of the decade.

SMMT figures

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