Noisy car sales?

New car sales traditionally provide a useful barometer of consumer confidence. In recent months, however, interpreting the figures requires a degree of caution given the significant volatility, in the car sales. Tax changes, the weather and the timing of Easter have all affected the volume of new cars sold and the annual growth rates over the last 12-15 months. This ‘noise’ can misrepresent the genuine underlying trends.

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New car sales stuck in reverse

New car dealers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all posted hefty double-digit year-on-year declines in March.  These ranged from 15% for England to 21% for Scotland with Northern Ireland coming in with an annual decrease of almost 17%. Last month was the quietest March for NI new car dealers in five years. This wasn’t due to the Beast from the East dissuading would-be car buyers from venturing out to dealers’ forecourts. Instead the steep falls are largely due to the inflated sales figures in March 2017.  Back then Northern Ireland car sales increased by 10% y/y.  However, this was distorted by a change in Vehicle Excise Duty in April 2017, which incentivised consumers to bring forward their plans to buy a new car.

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Car sales in neutral and signs point to slow lane ahead

New car sales have been on the slide in the UK in 2017. November marked the eight successive year-on-year fall, with UK sales down 11%. England, Scotland and Wales posted double-digit declines last month with Scotland recording the sharpest fall (-24% y/y).  The falls though conceal shifting patterns of demand between fuel types. Sales of petrol cars continue to grow (+5% y/y) while diesel sales plummeted by 31% y/y. Meanwhile the Alternative Fuelled Vehicles (AFV) sector saw sales volume surge by one-third in November. Continue reading

Roadkill or charging ahead?

There is a famous video about the reintroduction of a small number of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. It tells of how this intervention triggered a vast chain of unforeseen events, including forests regenerating, rivers becoming more fixed in their course, and soil erosion stopping. This had fundamental implications for the park’s ecosystem and very physical geography.

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Stuck in Reverse

2017 continues to be a disappointing year for new car sales at both a UK and Northern Ireland level. New car registrations in Northern Ireland fell by 9.3% y/y last month.  This compared with declines of 10% for Scotland and Wales and almost 6% for England. August represented the fifth successive month of year-on-year declines for both Northern Ireland and UK dealers. Indeed, Northern Ireland has only posted one month of year-on-year gains (March) in eight months and this was linked to changes in vehicle excise duty rates (VED) which artificially inflated sales in March. Continue reading

10-year car sales high flattered by tax changes

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March a 10-year high for NI new car sales

March was a record month for new car sales in the UK and a 10-year high in Northern Ireland. There were 8,556 new cars sold locally last month, just over 1,000 fewer (11%) than the pre-recession peak of 9,564 in March 2006. The near 10% y/y rise in local new car sales last month compared favourably with a UK increase of 8.5%.  However, Northern Ireland’s sales figures are coming off a lower base and follow declines recorded in earlier months. Continue reading

Look beyond the economic headlines

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If there’s one thing that 2016 has perhaps taught us, it’s that you have to be wary of headlines. When it came to both the EU referendum debate and the US Presidential election, partisan UK and US media organisations often dominated public discourse with overly-simplified headlines that didn’t do justice to complex and nuanced stories. Continue reading