Car sales hit by economic slowdown

A drop in the number of people buying a car after the economic slowdown this year has been reported by the Lookers auto dealership.

Like-for-like new and used car sales were down 6.5% and 5% respectively during the first half of 2008, with May and June being the worst months.

The Manchester-based company reported a 28% fall in pre-tax profits to £13m during the period, and said trading remains challenging and with no imminent improvement expected.

The group said buyers are switching to cheaper and more fuel-efficient vehicles, which has hit sales of prestige marques Lexus and Land Rover, which fell 20.1% and 11.3% respectively.

Meanwhile, sales of smaller cars like the Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1 in the more efficient emissions brackets were up more than 30%.

Chief executive Ken Surgenor said: "The turbulent environment has resulted in challenging trading conditions across the UK new and used-car markets particularly in May and June, which has impacted the performance of our new and used car businesses."

On a positive note, the firm said the performance at its used car supermarkets arm had fared better so far this year. It lost £4.2 million during 2007, but traded profitably during the first half this year.

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