The number of new car registrations fell for the fifth consecutive month in September, according to official figures, leading to calls for immediate action to restore consumer confidence.
Just 330,295 new cars were registered last month – a 21.2% drop on September 2007’s figures – and new car sales are down by 7.5% over the year to date.
September registrations usually account for at least 17% of the annual total, running a close second to the March volume.
But around 120,000 fewer new cars were sold this September than in March 2008 – the lowest number since the new, twice-yearly plates system started in 1999.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the car industry is facing its most difficult economic conditions in 17 years, and it wants the government to act now to protect it.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: ‘Government action is now needed to restore consumer confidence and boost demand in the real economy.
‘The chancellor’s pre-budget report should set out a package of measures to boost demand for new fuel-efficient cars and scrap plans for unfair increases in car tax.’
Road tax changes
It is thought a further 20% fall in sales in the final quarter of 2008 would see full year sales drop to 2.165m units, the lowest number since 1996.
To shore up the car market, the SMMT thinks the government should abandon a new ‘first year rate’ for road tax from 2010/2011, describing it as a hidden sales tax.
The SMMT also wants policy makers to reduce the impact of wider changes to the road tax system, which the organisation claims significantly increase the cost of motoring for families and lower income groups.