UK car sales race ahead – but Swindon’s manufacturers stay in slow lane for growth

January 7, 2014

Sales of new cars motored ahead by more than 10% in 2013 to their best year since 2007, new figures out today show, as consumer confidence rebounded and manufacturers tempted buyers with cheap credit deals.

The total of 2.26m vehicle registrations was 10.8% rise on 2012 and means that the UK has now overtaken France as Europe’s second-biggest car market after Germany.

However, while Swindon’s two car manufacturers – Honda and Mini – achieved higher sales in 2013 the increases were a long way behind the growth for the industry as a whole.

Honda sold 55,660 cars during the year – including those built at its Swindon plant and models imported from overseas – a 2.68% rise on 2012. That meant the Japanese manufacturer’s market share in the UK fell from 2.65% to 2.46% as rivals overtook it.

Sales of the Mini, which is produced by BMW from parts made mainly at its Swindon pressings plant, climbed 1.19% last year to 51,933. But, like Honda, this was not enough to prevent its share of the total sales market easing from 2.51% to 2.29%.

Industry analysts say competitive financing deals have brought many buyers back onto the forecourts, with three-quarters of private sales – as opposed to those made to fleet operators – now involving some kind of financing package.

The increase in private registrations accounted for two-thirds of overall market growth. In 2013 private buyers accounted for 47.5% of the market, up from 45.5% in 2012.

The 2013 total was boosted by a 23.76% rise in sales in December, marking the 22nd successive month of increases.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of industry body SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), which compiled the figures, said: “With its best year since a pre-recession 2007, the UK new car market has helped stimulate the country’s economic recovery.

“While the European market is only now showing signs of improvement, the UK has consistently outperformed the rest of Europe, with 22 consecutive months of growth.

“The 10.8% increase in 2013 reflects the attractive financial offers available, as well as increased demand for more technologically advanced new cars.”

The SMMT said that one in seven, or 300,000, of the cars bought last year were built in the UK.

Last month, it predicted that UK car production was likely to have reached a six-year high in of 1.5m-plus vehicles.

The SMMT said the third-generation Mini had helped drive growth of UK-built sales. BMW has invested heavily in its Swindon Mini plant to produce the new model.

Ford was the UK’s top-selling marque last year, with a 10.3% share of the market. Its Fiesta supermini and mid-sized Focus were the number one and two top-selling models. Ford’s total sales during 2013 climbed 13.8% to 310,865.

Registrations of hybrid and plug-in cars rose 20.5% in 2013 to 32,715 units. Sales of plug-in vehicles (pure electric, plug-in hybrids and range extenders), accounted for 4.5% of combined plug-in and hybrid sales in 2001. This increased to 11% in 2013.

The SMMT said new car registrations are likely to remain stable in 2014 as customers return to a more regular replacement cycle.

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