New car sales fell by more than 30% in January as the recession continued and car buyers stayed away from showrooms or bought second-hand cars instead.
Only small, economical cars bucked the downward trend, with city car sales up by more than 40% and superminis accounting for more than 35% of new registrations.
Ford Fiesta is bestseller
The new Ford Fiesta topped the sales charts for the third consecutive month, selling nearly 9000. Budget Korean car maker Hyundai also beat the recession with sales up by more than 5% thanks to the popularity of its new i10 and i30 models.
Fuel economy appears to be important to many people buying new cars. Although sales of diesel models were down compared with last year, diesel cars accounted for more than 45% of January sales, the second highest level on record.
Industry calls for action
The car industry is calling on the government to stimulate demand for new cars by introducing a cash incentive for people who scrap an old vehicle and buy an environmentally friendly new car.
Scrappage incentive schemes in other European countries, such as Germany and France, have boosted new car sales by up to 400,000.
All the latest car news
For daily consumer news, subscribe to the here.
If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste this link into your newsreader: http://www.which.co.uk/feeds/reviews/news.xml . Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to news feeds.
Which? Car email
To be kept in the loop on all the manufacturer offers and great car deals we spot each week, sign up for our Which? Car email – delivered to your inbox every Friday, and including all our latest news and first drive reviews, too.