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New car sales skid to under 2.5m

Sales of new cars have tumbled at their fastest rate for more than 11 years as private car buyers have been deserting forecourts in their thousands this year.

The grim picture is set to continue with sales on course to fall further next year.

Statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders to be published on Friday are expected to show that 2.43 million cars cars were sold this year, down by 5% on 2004’s tally of 2.56 million. The SMMT has predicted a 3% fall to 2.35 million in 2006. However, there are hopes that sales will pick up in 2007.

The 2005 tally is the first time new car sales have slipped below 2.5 million since 2001. The 5% fall is the biggest since at least 1994.

Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, said car dealers were not panicking despite the poor sales picture.

‘It is not a disaster but the figures are down. People are not over-anxious but no one likes things to head in the wrong direction. We are still well above the two million cars level when I joined the SMMT eight years ago.’

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