Consumers turn away from new cars

The motor industry is feeling the pinch of the current economic slowdown after recording its weakest August for new car sales since 1966.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said sales of new cars slumped to 63,225 last month as cost-conscious consumers steered clear of "big ticket" purchases.

The sales were down 18.6% year-on-year, bringing the total year-to-date decline in new car registrations to 3.8%, the SMMT said.

August is traditionally a slow month, with many consumers putting off buying a car until the new number plates are introduced in September.

But the August fall, which accounts for a quarter of the total decline seen so far this year, has raised concerns that the consumer spending downturn is deepening.

Howard Archer, chief economist at Global Insight, said: "Even allowing for the fact that August is typically a quiet month for the car market due to the number plate change in September, this was very worrying."

He added: "Sharply deteriorating car sales is a further clear sign that consumers are increasingly cutting back on their spending.

"Many consumers are doing this out of necessity due to squeezed purchasing power, but it is also likely that many are retrenching out of choice, reflecting serious concerns about the economic situation and outlook."

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