British car sales for the month of March are expected to have fallen by about 28 per cent in stark contrast to other leading European markets that have recently bounced after government “scrapping” incentives.
The predicted drop in the sales for last month will reignite calls for the UK to offer incentives for drivers to scrap old cars and buy new, or nearly new, ones. The move has been urged by the car industry and unions for several months amid plunging sales and lengthy factory shutdowns to cut production.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF), the UK car industry’s retail division, stepped up calls yesterday for a scrappage scheme to be introduced in Britain. Paul Williams, the chairman of the federation, said: “Measures to help to revive new-car sales in the UK, including the introduction of a vehicle scrappage scheme, must be enacted as soon as possible.”
He added: “The RMIF will be presenting the Government with a framework outlining how vehicle scrappage could work in practice. The paper will be delivered to the Government in the next few days.”
Germany, Europe’s biggest car market, published figures yesterday showing that sales rose 40 per cent last month against March 2008. About 401,000 new cars were bought in Germany last month. The market rose by slightly more than 20 per cent when adjusted to match the working days of March this year and last year, when Easter fell early.
Germany is offering €2,500 (£2,286) for drivers with cars that are more than nine years old to scrap them and buy new ones. The scheme will be extended until the year end after fears that it would run out of cash by the end of this month because it has proved so popular.
Yesterday the French market rose 8 per cent, Italy experienced a minor rise of 0.24 per cent and Spain lost some of its decline with a 38 per cent fall against a 48 per cent drop in February. UK car sales fell 31 per cent in January, but that steadied slightly in February, when sales lost 22 per cent compared with February of last year.