New car sales on the slideConsumers shunned showrooms in January

07 February 2011

New cars sales were up in 2010 thanks to the Scrappage Incentive Scheme

The Scrappage Incentive Scheme contributed to an inflation in car sales in 2010

New car sales in January were down by 11.5% year-on-year, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The decline in new car sales is being related to low consumer confidence and the loss of the Scrappage Incentive Scheme, which was running for the first three months of 2010.

According to the SMMT, just 128,811 new cars were registered in January this year - that’s 16,667 short of the same month in 2010.

Despite the substantial fall, the numbers were slightly ahead of the SMMT’s forecast for the month, which factored in the loss of the scrappage scheme causing a downturn in sales. In January 2010, the scheme accounted for 18% of sales.

Other contributory factors to this year's drop could be the VAT rise to 20% in January and the growing cost of fuel.

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive, said the decline marks the start of a difficult year for the motor industry, and the government should act to ease costs for motorists.

He said: 'Consumer confidence is low and it is important that government uses the March Budget to help relieve some of the financial pressure on motorists by freezing fuel duty, while providing stability and certainty on motoring taxes.'

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Low-CO2 car sales up

Although the new car market is down overall, sales of cars with CO2 emissions under 100g/km are on the increase. And emissions from new cars are down too. 

The average new car CO2 emissions figure is 141.5kg compared with 144.2g/kg in January 2010.

There was little change in the models at the top of the sales charts, though, with the soon-to-be replaced Ford Focus taking the number one slot in January. The new Mk3 Focus goes on sale this month.

Read our review of the new Ford Focus

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If you’re thinking about buying a new car, especially with the new 2011 number plate due soon, why not ask one of the Which? Car team for some expert advice?

Which? members will be able to call us or take part in a live online Q&A.

The phone-in takes place tomorrow (Tuesday 8 February), when we’ll be available to answer you car buying queries from 10am to 3pm - just call 01992 822 877.

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