By Oliver Hall
UK car sales continued to plummet by 30 per cent last month compared to the previous year, new figures revealed today.
The news intensified pressure on the government to bail out the stricken car industry and comes days after shares in tyres companies rose due to the resurgence in European car sales.
Tyres makers Continental, Michelin and Pirelli all enjoyed stock market rises last week after Germany car sales rose by 40 per cent last month, against the previous March. France and Italy also experienced minor rises and Spain slowed down its decline.
However, the introduction of the ’09’ registration plate appears to have done little to jump start sales in the UK with just over 313,000 cars sold, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
This was the worst March since 1999, when the Government tried to boost the industry by changing number plates twice a year.
The British car industry has pleaded with the chancellor Alistair Darling to launch the ‘scrappage’ scheme which has been credited with boosting the German market where drivers are offered £2,286 to trade in cars more than nine years old for new models.
Paul Everitt, the SMMT’s chief executive, said: ‘March new car registrations are a barometer of confidence in the economy, from businesses and consumers alike.
‘A scrappage scheme will provide the incentive needed and the evidence is clear that schemes already implemented across Europe do work to increase demand. The UK is the only major European market not to implement a scheme.’
Earlier this year Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, announced a £2.3 billion aid package to support a sector on which more than 800,000 jobs depend.
But none of this money has been distributed although a number of manufacturers are drawing up applications for loans under the scheme.