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Motor industry faces up to 700,000 lost new car sales

The motor industry in the UK is in the midst of its greatest crisis: total new car registrations in 2008 and 2009 are likely to be more than 700,000 fewer than was expected last January.

SMMT statistics for last year – and its forecasts – underline the need for urgent government help for dealers, carmakers and component suppliers.

The SMMT, RMIF and FLA are pressing business secretary Lord Mandelson and chancellor Alistair Darling to safeguard hundreds of thousands of manufacturing and retail jobs.

New car registrations in 2008 totalled 2,131,795 units, down 11.3% on 2007. A year ago, the SMMT forecast a 2.315 million market, 1.3% lower year-on-year.

Last January the SMMT also believed registrations would hold firm at 2.315 million in 2009. Now it expects no more than 1.78 million.

This means last year’s sales were around 184,000 lower than forecast, and this year will be about 535,000 down on the original projection – a total shortfall of 719,000 units.

Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said he and RMIF chairman Paul Williams were confident of further talks with Lord Mandelson before the end of this month.

Everitt said the priority was easier access to credit across the industry, and he was urging the government to make no distinction between British firms and those based overseas that had made substantial investments in the UK.

The government has appointed accountants KPMG and investment bank NM Rothschild to assess the motor industry’s needs, and Everitt believes this could slow the process.

The two financial groups are also advising government ministers on Tata Group’s complex finances.

Over the past few weeks Tata has injected tens of millions of pounds into Jaguar Land Rover, but says access to credit is essential.

  • Read this story in full in the 23 Jan 09 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.

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